Mercer County To Join The Faith Trail
Mercer County is joining the faith trail. Last week, the Harrodsburg-Mercer County Tourist Commission voted join with other tourist agencies—including Ark Encounter—to start a Kentucky faith trail.
Daarik Gray, the executive-director of the tourist commission, said Mercer County would be one of a few counties to have two stops on the trail, the Old Dutch Mud Meeting House and Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. There are eight stops on the tour, Gray said.
“We’d be in a great location,” Gray said.
Northern Kentucky is leading the initiative, Gray told the board of directors, which is similar to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. He said Northern Kentucky is putting up $18,000 while the other counties are putting up $2,500. Gray said the money would be used to hire a photographer and create a website and full itinerary. He said they’ve been working on this for six weeks.
“It’s kind of an interesting idea,” said Tim Kazimer, chairman of the board of directors. “It’s not a huge amount of money and it could be a huge return.”
Bob Gigliotti moved to join the faith trail initiative, using $2,500 from tourism development. Joan Huffman seconded. The motion passed unanimously.
The board also heard from Kaitlyn Harder and Noel turner of the Harrodsburg First Main Street Program about Oktoberfest. Harder and Turner were unable to provide an attendance count, but they could say that 8,842 drink tickets were sold while 500 families registered at Kinderland on Chiles Street. The organizers said, according to the pins placed in the map near the ticket boot, there were visitors from each continental U.S. state.
Most importantly, merchants said it was the best Oktoberfest they’d ever had. Kazimer, who owns the Vault said their numbers were up 18 percent over last year.
In order to justify increasing funds, Kazimer said they need some way of taking attendance.
“Determining attendance is kind of a big deal for us,” Kazimer said.
“We could throw out a number but we have no idea,” Turner said. He said they could provide numbers from Geofencing through Bluegrass News Media, which is collected from pinging phones. Truner said they were looking into ways to count attendance.
Harder said downtown Harrodsburg is a difficult location, unlike Shakertown, which only has one entrance.
Turner said they would provide the tourist commission with data before the end of the year. He said they are gathering fixed assets—such as pop-up tents—and he wants to share them with the rest of the community for their events, which would help alleviate the costs.
“I want to share the love,” Turner said. “We’ve just got tons of stuff.”
“We love what you’re doing,” Kazimer said. “It’s tourism.”
Still, moving forward, Kazimer said the tourist commission would look for the request to decrease. Oktoberfest received $49,000 in sponsorship grant funding from the tourist commission this year.
“As you get better at this festival and more efficient, your costs may go down,” Kazimer said. “But you’re also going to try to make it bigger. It’s a delicate balance.”
“We’re going to have to start paying more people to do things,” Turner said. He said they paid the Rotary Club $4,000 as a fund raiser. While that puts that money right back into the community, it made it difficult to make cuts.
“They’re not really volunteers, we’re actually paying them,” Turner said. “I don’t know if we can drop our costs, but we’ll see what we can do.”
He said sponsorships will be key in reducing the funding they request from the tourist commission.
The tourist commission will resume collecting the restaurant tax starting Jan. 1, 2023. In 2020, the city took over collecting the tax, handing the revenue over to the tourist commission, who paid the city administrative costs. Prior to that, the tourist commission handled the tax collection duties, splitting the revenue evenly with the city. However, since 2020, the tourist commission has been responsible for 100 percent of the money collected.
“They are ready to give it back,” said Kazimer, who said he’d spoken with Mayor Billy Whitenack. “I think we can do a good job.”
To be fair, some restaurants never stopped paying the tax to the tourist commission, said Garnie Yeager, the deputy executive-director. Yeager is meeting with the city about database and other files. Both the city and the tourist commission should send out letters to restaurants informing them.
The next meeting of the Harrodsburg-Mercer County Tourist Commission will be Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 9 a.m.
Are the tourist commission meetings open to the public and when are they held?
The next meeting of the Harrodsburg-Mercer County Tourist Commission will be Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 9 a.m. The meetings are open to the public.