Robbins Examining Options for Festivals
Robbins is rethinking the kind of festival it will add in the light of a new study.
For a half century and more, the town has put on a successful summer festival. Farmers Day has grown from one to three days and added more stages over the years. Spurred by STEP (Small Town Economic Prosperity), the town looked to the spring as a likely time for another festival that would draw visitors to the hilly part of the county.
At first, the thought was to hold a music festival. Farmers Day has traditionally featured a concentration of country gospel music, as has the Buggy Festival in Carthage.
There is a lot more variety available in local music groups, according to Jarius Garner.
Garner, the town's fire chief, has headed Farmers Day for the past several years. He seemed a natural choice to lead the way to a music festival. He started casting the net for classical, rock, and other solo musicians and groups.
A new study funded by the state Departments of Commerce and Cultural Resources, the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation looked at the contribution of handmade industry in a 20-county region of western North Carolina.
In Robbins, the results of that study are giving festival folks a different slant on things. Now, they are thinking there could be much more to gain from making any new festival craft-based instead of entertainment-based.
The study found startlingly clear differences between the kind of people who go to craft fairs compared to entertainment fairs.
Craft fair visitors typically spent $621 a year on crafts and visited 10 fairs every year. About 90 percent had some college education. Their average age was 50. Close to half had family incomes in the $60,000 range. They spent an average $93 at their last craft fair, compared to less than half that spent by entertainment fair visitors at their last fair.
Entertainment fair visitors spent only a fourth as much annually, just $156 on average. They went to fewer than half as many events, only 4.2 visits a year. Their average age was 39, and 70 percent had some college. Less than a third had a annual income between $30,000 and $39,000.
A lot more of them were local, with 67 percent of entertainment fair visitors coming from North Carolina. Nearly half (45 percent) of craft fair people were tourists.
"The individuals who visited the craft fair are more affluent, more educated, older, and tend to spend more money on craft purchases, especially 'fine' craft work," the study said. "The craft fair visitor family income is over $60,000 per year.
They spend an average of $621 per year on 10 craft visits per year and $93 on this recent craft visit."
With most of the so-called Seagrove area potters actually based in Moore County, a big annual pottery fair could well be on its way to Robbins.
The new study looked at professional producers, second income (hobby) craft producers, craft consumers, and retail sellers of crafts.
"No one truly understands the economic contribution of the craft industry to the local or regional economy," the study said.
It found notable differences between people attracted by crafts and people attracted to music, rides, and other entertainment.
According to the study, people who visit "entertainment" fairs have family incomes between $30,000 and $39,000. In general, they are younger, less educated, have lower incomes, and seem to spend much less on craft purchases when they come to entertainment based events.
They spent only $156 a year at fair, only $46 on their most recent visit. Both consumer groups had many individuals who traveled great distances to attend these fairs -- an important link between the purchase of crafts and tourism.
Age, income and education all positively relate to consumer craft spending. National research shows "fine-craft" buyers to be well educated, well-traveled, men and women from 35 to 55 years of age. A 1992 study by S.K. List (in "American Demographics," Dec. 1992) cited in the report noted that "as craft consumers age and mature, inconspicuous craft consumption becomes more popular."
That bodes well for the Robbins area. At the virtual midpoint on N.C. 705, a restored Old Elise Depot can become a central guide station to arts and crafts in the area.
"Craftspeople and artists work as professionals and provide income, employment, and new businesses for economic development," the new study notes. "In rural areas the craft industry has particularly serious implications for economic development."
John Chappell can be reached at 783-5841 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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