November 29, 2021

17 agencies await county tourism money

Legislature set to vote Thursday on funding

Although the coronavirus pandemic has canceled many events this year, Cortland County tourism agencies are figuring out new events to attract people and how to market for people’s safety.

“It’s really about how you present programs,” said Ty Marshal, the executive director at the Center for the Arts of Homer.

The center is one of 17 agencies that will receive tourism grant funding from the county through a tax on people staying in hotels and motels.

Typically, the county collects $550,000 to $650,000 in occupancy tax dollars each year. This year, it can expect to collect half that, said Meghan Lawton, executive director of the Cortland County Convention & Visitors Bureau. That won’t affect next year’s tourism marketing grants, but it will take a bite from 2022.

Tourism grant recipients

  • 1890 House Museum, $12,000
  • Brockway Truck Preservation Society, $10,000
  • Center for the Arts of Homer, $25,000
  • Central NY Maple Festival, $6,000
  • Cortland Area Innkeepers Association, $7,000
  • Cortland Crush NYCBL Baseball, $5,000
  • Cortland County Historical Society, $12,000
  • Cortland Main Street Music Series, $2,000
  • Cortland Regional Sports Council, $119,000
  • Cortland Repertory Theatre, $25,000
  • Cultural Council of Cortland County, $8,500
  • Holiday in Homer, $2,500
  • Homer Cortland Community Agency, $13,000
  • Homeville Museum, $1,500
  • JM McDonald Sports Complex, $21,000
  • Lime Hollow Nature Center, $12,000
  • Statewide Country Music Park, $4,500

The center’s new marketing includes telling people about the safety measures the coronavirus pandemic requires, Marshal said. Such was the case for Chiller Haunted House this year, when the center marketed that people needed to reserve a spot and wear a mask through the entire event.

“That’s just an additional extra tack-on advertising,” Marshal said.

If the county gives the Homer center money for next year, it will look to market more events; national music acts are already being booked, he said.

“That’s very hopeful to us,” Marshall said.

However, whether those events will actually take depends on a number of factors, including whether there is a vaccine available, he added.

Chris Merkley, the organizer of the Main Street Music Series, said he was told by the Cortland County Visitors Bureau, which hands out the grants on behalf of the county, that the money could be used to market virtual events as long as it promotes the county.

Merkley said the music series is going on as a 10-week series in collaboration with WXHC and American Vintage Production. The series’ music and interviews are aired on the radio and Facebook.

As for next year, that’s up in the air.

“It’s really just a matter of waiting to see what we can do,” he said.

The Cortland Repertory Theatre was able to produce just three events this year and used tourism grant money to promote those events, said Kerby Thompson, the artistic producing director.

Because it had leftover money, Thompson said the theater is revamping its website and creating an online store.

“That’s been very helpful to use those funds,” he said.

He said he’s waiting to see what next year brings before making any commitments.

“Things change daily,” he said, noting ensuring everyone is safe is the most important thing to him.

Any unused tourism funds this year will be looped into the 2022 pot, to lessen the blow of not collecting as much tax this year, Lawton said this week at a meeting of the county legislature’s Budget and Finance Committee.

The legislature is expected to vote on awarding the funding on Nov. 19.