Local News

Council provides money for downtown events

SEBRING - For a long time, Casey Wohl, who does marketing for the Sebring Community Redevelopment Agency, has promoted holding events that go beyond just attracting snowbirds. She's argued the events need to bring year-around residents and tourists, as well, into the downtown area. On Tuesday night, Wohl got a boost for her ideas from the Sebring City Council, which voted 2-1 to provide Wohl, of Gray Dog Communications, and Lora Todd, of Plan B Promotions, with about $14,000 to plan for six downtown events during the next year. As to why those events will draw in more people, Wohl said, plans are for many or all of them to be two-day events and that all the events will be "professionally organized and marketed."
She also said a concerted effort will be made to get an accurate count of the number of attendees. Wohl said some recent events show the potential for successful events in the downtown. During one event, Moms Night Out, 275 wine glasses were sold and many downtown merchants reported brisk business, she said. At least 400 people attended the event, and some were men, she said. Of the planned events, she said, she will seek partnerships with other groups, such as the Tourist Development Council, besides the city and the CRA, which is limited to supporting marketing for the events. Councilman Scott Stanley said the funding is relatively nominal and he believes holding such events is worth a try. "If it doesn't work, we can try something else," he said. Councilman Andrew Fells also supported the funding, saying he believes the city needs to take a chance, although he also believes in cutting back spending. "I have to admit I'm one of those who has said, 'There's nothing to do in Sebring,'" he said. But Councilman John Clark opposed the funding, saying that downtown businesses haven't supported many of the events in the past. He's been to many events where most of the businesses were closed, he said. "They'll [complain] that there's nobody coming down here," he said. "But when there's an event they don't stay open." "I'm tired of throwing money at them," he added. Wohl said she understand's Clark's frustration, but believes efforts are underway to get more businesses to stay open longer. In other matters, the council approved designating some land near Kenilworth Boulevard for mitigation property to make up for future development of some wetlands at the Sebring airport. That development is aimed at attracting more businesses to the airport. The mitigation land would eventually be transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The council also rejected a property owner's proposal for a boat dock on Lake Charlotte, saying there's no justification to provide a variance for the larger size. jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834