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Little profit in local festivals

Mesa Verde Country wants each to have<br/>its own board,<br/>nonprofit status

Tourism officials learned Thursday that two local festivals have lost money in recent years.

Mesa Verde Country new executive director Heather Hughes informed board members at their monthly meeting last week that both the Indian Arts & Cultural Festival and the Mesa Verde Country Food, Wine & Arts Festival have failed to break even.

According to financial records, the Native American themed event lost $6,000 in 2011, profited $1,200 in 2012 and lost $1,700 this year. The wine festival has lost an average of $950 annually since 2012, records show.

“I don’t want to cancel these festivals,” Hughes told board members. “I do want to get out of the business of running festivals.”

Board members were in consensus and said they believed area festivals should pay for themselves as well as attract outside tourists to Cortez.

“The festivals should put heads in beds,” said board member Shawna McLaughlin, referencing the lack of festival-related hotel bookings in recent years.

The board discussed transitioning out of festival management, requiring each event to establish its own nonprofit status and separate board of directors to oversee festival operations. No official action was taken, and directors opted to maintain control over this year’s upcoming wine festival to avoid any confusion.

The board also plans to shift management of the Mancos Valley/Mesa Verde Country Balloon & Arts Festival to outside control. According to reports, the balloon festival has ended in the black in recent years, profiting $100 in 2011 and $650 in 2012.

“We will continue to support all three of these festivals,” said Hughes.

Hughes was appointed tourism director of Mesa Verde Country in June. She replaced Lynn Dyer. Prior to the new position, Hughes served as a marketing manager at Sky Ute Casino in Ignacio.

“My aim is to increase visitation to the area,” Hughes said. “I hope we can extend the visitor season as late as possible and as early as possible.”

The Indian Arts & Culture Festival is typically held Memorial Day weekend, the Food, Wine & Arts Festival in late August and the Balloon & Arts Festival is held in late September.