Hilton Head drops fees for festivals; nonprofit groups rejoice

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Hilton Head drops fees for festivals; nonprofit groups rejoice

By LAURA NAHMIAS lnahmias@islandpacket.com 843-706-8169
Published Thursday, April 8, 2010   |  407 Words  |  news/local

Nonprofit groups on Hilton Head Island no longer will have to pay the town a fee for safety inspections before they stage events.
The town will lose about $6,000 a year to waive the inspection fees, but town manager Steve Riley says it will be worth it if the move leads to more festivals on the island.
Creating more festivals -- from local ones like Hospice Care of the Lowcountry's Yacht Hop, to tourist draws like the Concours d' Elegance -- is one of the town's goals for the coming decade, Riley said.
"Festivals are a great way to bring tourists and the community together," he said.
The Island Recreation Association, which sponsors events such as Snow Day, Cajun Festival and Wingfest, will be able to devote more revenue to its scholarship fund, said Frank Soule, the association's director.
The center will save only about $300, but "every little bit helps," he said. "This creates a lot more opportunities for us in the long run" to develop new events and provide scholarships.
The biggest beneficiary of the new ordinance, approved unanimously Tuesday by the Town Council, is the Heritage Classic Foundation, the organizer of the island's annual PGA Tour event, the Verizon Heritage.
The foundation, which pays about $3,000 in inspection fees each year, has donated more than $20 million to local charities since it began in 1986, according to the nonprofit group's Web site.
The Concours d' Elegance -- beneficiaries of which have included the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra Youth Orchestra, the Boys and Girls Club and the Coastal Discovery Museum -- will save about $1,500, Riley said.
The waiver also will be a minor boost to the Hilton Head Hospitality Association -- which sponsors the Hilton Head Island Wine and Food and the Seafood Jazz and Brew festivals -- but the town's gesture is important symbolically, according to Ann-Marie Adams, the association's executive director.
"One of the things we've heard over the last couple of years is that a number of events, not just destination events, but county fairs, community events, have really been hit hard when it came to facilities costs and anything relating to being licensed or approved. From a statewide perspective, when municipalities alleviate these fees, it's a big positive," she said.
For Adams, the waiver is the equivalent of the town saying to local nonprofit groups: "We believe in what you're attempting to do."