Missoula choral, Celtic festivals receive tourism grants to lure attendees

2013-01-21T18:24:00Z 2013-01-21T19:08:46Z Missoula choral, Celtic festivals receive tourism grants to lure attendeesBy JENNA CEDERBERG Missoulian The Billings Gazette
January 21, 2013 6:24 pm  • 

MISSOULA — Two revered Missoula summer festivals got a boost Monday from the Montana Office of Tourism’s Special Events grants.

The International Choral Festival of Missoula was awarded a $10,885 grant for extended marketing of its July event and the Missoula Celtic Festival was awarded a $7,800 grant to help run its annual event in Caras Park, the Montana Department of Commerce announced Monday.

Choral Festival executive director Melissa Blunt said the grant will allow organizers to market the festival to a much larger area.

“It opens up the opportunities to market to a lot of new markets, in Idaho and Washington,” Blunt said. “We didn’t have that budget in place (for that extended marketing). It’s huge for us because we want to bring in as many audience members as possible.”

Along with marketing in “drive markets” like eastern Washington and northern Idaho, the festival will reach out across Montana. The festival, which brings choirs from around the world to Missoula for five days of concerts, will take place July 17-21 this year and include choirs from Argentina to Zimbabwe, Blunt said.

“It’s just great to have the ability to market as this festival should be marketed. We’re a nonprofit and we have to raise all the money,” Blunt said. “Usually (marketing) is focused closer to home, but really this is an international event and people come from all over. It’s just really nice to have that money to do it. We’re not going to be limiting ourselves.”

Festival organizers hope to boost attendance by at least 5 percent from the usual 25,000 people who attend. That’s a conservative estimate of the number of new audience members the grant money most likely will generate, Blunt said.

The advertisements should be rolling out across the area this spring, Blunt said. In the meantime, the board is gearing up finding volunteers and host families for the influx of singers who will visit Missoula during the festival.

Several free preview concerts will take place on July 17 to kick off the event. The finale concert will be held at Ogren Park at Allegiance Field this year, Blunt said.

“The audience will be closer to the choir,” Blunt said of the Ogren Park venue. “I’m expecting we’ll pack it.”

The grant also covers funds to market to potential guest choirs, Blunt said.

The Missoula Celtic Festival takes place in July in Caras Park. The event, founded by Bob and Shannon Lukes, celebrated its third year in 2012.

The Montana Office of Tourism’s Special Events Grant Program awarded around $200,000 worth of grants to 17 different tourism-related events across the state this year, a Department of Commerce news release said.

Grant funds are available for event marketing and promotion outside a 100-mile radius of the event. To date, the grant program has provided $954,500 in grant funding to 106 events in numerous Montana communities, the release said.

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