Commissioner pledge funds to help with Virginia City celebration

VIRGINA CITY – At a recent Madison County Commissioners meeting the board pledged their support in the amount of $5,000 to the Virginia City Area Chamber of Commerce on behalf of their committee to organize the celebration for the 150th anniversary of the historic town.

Virginia City Area Chamber executive director Rebecca Ramsey pointed out that Virginia City saw a significant increase in seasonal traffic this summer, and she credited much of that to the advertising campaign by the Montana Heritage Commission.

“As you probably have read, you know that Virginia City saw about a 110 percent increase this year, and I believe that that is the direct result of the partnership with the county, with the chamber, with the city: the efforts that we all put forth to come together,” she said. “We’re going to be able to reach some people, get some people here and once people are here they fall in love and make it a regular occurrence.”

Ramsey and grant writer Kim Miller explained that the advertising budget for next year is between $20,000 and $30,000, and part of that will go toward hosting events. Miller said the committee is looking at all different aspects of funding for this project.

“We hope to conclude specifically where we’re going for funds and how much we’d like to ask from each partner,” said Miller. “What we are running into is a lot of the funding is for marketing, but my position is we need something to market as well, so part of these funds will go directly towards events.”

Preliminary planning for next year’s celebration began in January, and Ramsey said the season will start quickly on Memorial Day weekend, highlighted by a historical reenactment of the discovery of gold near Alder Gulch in 1863. Other programs throughout the summer will include the national conference of the National Stage Coach and Freight Wagon Association in July, Native American Homecoming Weekend and a historic reenactment of the longest bareknuckle fight in history.

“The economic aspects, if not your ties to the history, certainly give you reason to help us fund this effort,” said Ramsey. “I do believe that putting forth more effort and money into marketing and these events is going to draw a lot of people here.”

Commissioner Dan Happel agreed with Ramsey, and made the motion to offer support from the county.

“I fully support this because Virginia City is a unique place. It’s a unique piece in history and it’s our county seat, and I think we have a responsibility to help promote this 150th anniversary,” he said. “I think it’s a terrific project and could be a great economic boost for the county.”

Miller was also encouraged by the boost in traffic through the area this summer, as well as the positive outlook for next summer.

“I find this a really positive turn or spin to Virginia City in general over the years, and being here for over 20, I just think this is great,” Miller said.

Commissioner Jim Hart added that Virginia City is where Montana started.

“With that in mind, that’s exactly why we need to be partners in all of this,” he said.

Commissioner Dave Schulz was also encouraged by positive direction Virginia City has taken this summer, and requested periodic updates from the committee on their plans for the 150th Anniversary celebration. Ramsey called the continued marketing efforts a wise investment for the whole area, not just for 2013.

For more information on the 150th Anniversary celebration, visit the Virginia City Area Chamber of Commerce website at www.virginiacity.com.

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