For the week of August 12 thru August 18, 1998  

Chamber: More than they asked for

But Ketchum earmarks money to enliven downtown


By KATHRYN BEAUMONT
Express Staff Writer

Last month, when City Councilwoman Chris Potters’ sister came to Ketchum for a visit, Potters planned a night out on the town. Before dinner, she and her sister wanted to walk Ketchum’s streets, checking out the happenings of a busy resort town in the summer.

The problem was, Potters said, nothing was happening.

"‘Where are the people?’" Potters said her sister asked incredulously. "She said she’d never seen anything like this. It was a ghost town."

As a result, Potters challenged the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber of Commerce to come up with ideas and events to make Ketchum a lively, more vital place during its long summer evenings.

Rallying behind Potters’ momentum, the Ketchum City Council on Thursday approved the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber of Commerce’s budget request for $310,000, with an additional $12,500 to be used for creating events to vitalize the city’s downtown.

The $352,000 total is slightly more than 20 percent of Ketchum’s option tax revenue.

The council’s theory was simple: give businesses a reason to stay open, and they will. And in the process, they’ll attract more customers, more local option tax, and ultimately, more money for the city and the chamber.

"I’d love to take on your challenge," said the chamber’s executive director, Carol Waller. She pointed out that the chamber had come up with special events for slack seasons--the Mountain Wellness Festival over Memorial Day weekend and the Trailing of the Sheep in the fall.

"Here we have a captive audience of tourists who are already here for the summer," Potters said, "and at 6 p.m. we’re saying, ‘See ‘ya.’ We have a great potential that’s not being used."

Potters also pointed out that while winter marketing is important because it is difficult to attract visitors for a variety of reasons beyond the chamber’s control--age, fear of getting hurt, lack of snow--Sun Valley is an anomaly among ski resorts in that the town is crowded all summer long.

"Let’s take advantage of that," she said.

Restaurant tastings, more gallery walks, concerts--all these are options for events, but the council will leave it up to the chamber to use the money at its discretion, coming up with the ideas.

"Let’s spend the money but try to earmark it for creative new events," said Councilman Dave Hutchinson. "That’s a challenge. Before there were gallery walks, someone had to think about it."

"You’re going to come back to us and say, ‘Here’s what we did with the money and here’s how our options tax revenue increased during that period,’" he said.

Potters said she doesn’t want to micromanage, either.

"[We] got them the money, now let’s see what they can do with it," she said. "I’m really excited to see what they come up with."

 

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