Residents raised many questions and concerns regarding the cancellation of the Holiday Carriage Rides. This Q&A provides more information regarding the program, its management and the reasoning to cancel the Holiday Carriage Rides this year.
Why did Parker cancel the Holiday Carriage Rides?
To continue to provide our community with free and low-cost events, while balancing necessary budget reductions, the Town has had to take an in-depth look at our event lineup and make some hard choices. While we know the Holiday Carriage Rides are a favorite community tradition, they serve the lowest number of participants and have the highest per patron cost within our event lineup. In order to meet budgetary constraints, and also retain the Town’s signature events that serve a broader portion of our community, we made the difficult decision to cancel the 2018 Holiday Carriage Rides. This decision was not made lightly and there were many discussions between staff, the Town Administrator’s office and Town Council regarding the continuation of this program. This reduction, along with many other reductions to the 2018 Town budget, was approved by Town Council at the July 16, 2018 Town Council meeting during a public hearing.
How many Parker community members does the cancellation of this program affect?
Since the Holiday Carriage Rides were open to anyone, there was no way of restricting the rides to only Parker residents. However, if every rider was a Parker citizen (2,000 riders) in a Town of 52,000 citizens, then the percentage of community members affected would be less than 4 percent of our population.
How much did it save the Town to cancel the Carriage Ride Program?
The 2017 Holiday Carriage Rides and entertainment at the Discovery Park Ride Station cost $17,350. The 2018 program was budgeted to cost approximately $18,000, based on discussions with vendors. These costs don’t account for staff time for pre, day of and post-event needs, which were high due to the amount of time this program takes to coordinate. This program also relied on a large group of volunteers and required increased Police presence and patrol during the event.
Can’t the Town offset the event cost with additional sponsorships?
In 2017, five sponsorship opportunities were available and all of them were sold, which offset $6,000 of the event costs. After sponsorship was accounted for, the Town subsidized $11,720 or $5.86 per person per ride. Our Special Events and Sponsorship Coordinator spends a great deal of time working with our great local business community and is always looking to bring new sponsors on board. However, since the Holiday Carriage Rides have a much lower attendance than our other larger-scale Town events, they don’t draw as much sponsor interest as they don’t provide as much return on investment (mainly a banner displayed on the wagon/carriage for marketing purposes) for our local business community.
While the Town would have likely been able to sell out 2018 Carriage Ride sponsorship at $6,000, due to the factors mentioned above it was difficult to offer additional sponsorship opportunities and/or raise the price of existing sponsorships. With a limited-scope event with smaller attendance, we don’t have the flexibility to provide sponsors with additional promotional opportunities without adding more elements or additional vehicles to the event, which costs the Town additional money.
Even though we made the decision to cancel the 2018 Carriage Rides, the businesses that had committed to sponsoring the 2018 event stayed on board and agreed to put their sponsorship dollars toward other Town events, which further offset the cost of our remaining Town events. Any businesses interested in sponsoring Town events are encouraged to reach out to Brooke Spain at the Town of Parker for more information or visit www.ParkerOnline.org/Sponsorship.
Did the Town consider charging for the Holiday Carriage Rides?
The Town did discuss charging for the Holiday Carriage Rides to offset the high per person cost. In order to sell tickets, the Town would have needed to use a paid ticketing system that offered more options than the free Sign-Up Genius system we previously used. For the Town to make enough money to fully offset event costs (including event sponsorship and accounting for the per person ticketing fees charged), we would have needed to charge approximately $10 per ticket, which we felt would cause further community frustration and price many families out of participating in the event.
What if the Town cut back on the number of carriages/wagons?
While cutting back on the number of carriages/wagons would help reduce the budget, it would be offset by a reduction in the number of event sponsorships the Town could sell. It would also further impact the existing problem of demand outpacing the number of tickets that could be provided for this event. One of the biggest complaints that we receive about this event is that the ride seats/tickets filled up so fast that the majority of the population was left feeling they weren’t able to participate. As the program stood, less than 4 percent of Parker residents had an opportunity to participate in this event. By reducing the amount of vehicles, you further limit who can participate.
Would you allow an interested carriage vendor to come in and coordinate Holiday Carriage Rides?
Yes, the Town would entertain this option if a carriage vendor was interested in applying for a Community Event Permit to put on this event and adhere to all permit requirements. If you know of a vendor that is interested in coordinating this service to the community, please have them contact Brooke Spain at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303.805.3253.
Can another organization take on the event organization and cost?
This program was originally started by the Downtown Development Council (now Downtown Business Alliance) and then taken on by the Chamber of Commerce. The Town of Parker took over the planning and expense of this program in 2013, when event organizers decided it was not economically feasible to continue the program. The Town would welcome another organization to assume the planning and funding of the Holiday Carriage Rides to carry on this tradition. A 501(c)3 organization may be a great fit for this program. If an organization or business is interested in providing this program to our community, they are welcome to apply for a community event permit through the Town at http://parkeronline.org/130/Community-Event-Permits.
What about accepting donations or crowd funding?
As a government entity, the Town cannot rely on donations that may or may not cover the expenses nor is it a best practice to crowd fund for expenses that are a contractual obligation to pay. We must be fiscally responsible and know we have the money to spend before we can spend it. The Town can accept donations, but must collect all money before a signed contract and Town Council must accept the donation (gift) by resolution. The Town cannot enter into a contract anticipating funds/donations will be received.
How has the Town sought vendors for the Carriage Rides program in previous years?
To contact potential vendors, the Town of Parker issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the 2017 Holiday Carriage Rides. This RFP was sent out to 15 different carriage vendors, posted on the Nationwide and Rocky Mountain Region Bid Net, and posted on the Town's website on Feb. 2, 2017. We held the RFP process open for one month, held an informational meeting regarding the process, and called all 15 vendors to make sure they received the RFP. The Town encouraged vendors to not only review the RFP, but also to propose additional options if the contract choices offered by the Town did not work for their needs. In the RFP, we offered multiple contract options, ranging from the Town paying the full cost of the rides, to a system where the Town paid a partial amount of the overall cost with the vendor charging a nominal fee for rides, to a vendor providing the rides independently and collecting full payment. Out of the 15 vendors that were researched from the greater Denver Metro area, zero attended the informal informational meeting and zero submitted a proposal. Once the RFP process was closed and there was no interest from the available carriage companies, staff then reached back out to all 15 vendors, and of the eight vendors who responded to that contact, five stated they were not interested in participating and three vendors gave bids. None of the companies were interested in taking on the program independently. This was partly due to the large scope (five vehicles) we were requesting but also the lack of guaranteed revenue versus the large amount of work the program would require.