Miss Georgia USA pageants shine spotlight on Cartersville
by Marie Nesmith
Nov 20, 2013 | 2870 views | 0 0 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As more than 140 contestants of the Miss Georgia USA and Miss Georgia Teen USA pageants arrive in Cartersville this week, the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau is looking to renegotiate its contract with Greenwood Productions for future ventures. With the bureau now realizing it is unable to utilize the hotel/motel tax to help supplement this project, the CVB seeks to shoulder less of the cost next year.

“The CVB basically would pick up any sponsorship dollars that had not been covered, but because of some clarifications from the Department of Community Affairs, we want to make sure that those hotel/motel tax dollars are being used to the best ability and according to law,” said Regina Wheeler, deputy director for the local CVB, which is charged with raising about $20,000 for the pageants, with the top expenditures including renting the venue, providing meals and supplying transportation to the contestants. “So we’re certainly looking at that and means of being able to have this as an equitable sponsorship from the CVB.

“We’re just having to look at frankly cutting some costs and things like that. Some of the things that we’ve been asked to pick up in the past, we may not be able to cover in the future.”

Stressing the need to change the contract model, Ellen Archer, executive director for the local CVB, explained hotel/motel tax dollars only should be spent “for programs of marketing or advertisement of Bartow County.”

“We’re able through ticket sales and sponsorships to raise about $10,000 each year. ... The remainder has to come out of our budget,” Archer said. “... [But] we don’t have the staff [or] time to go out there and beat the bush for it as much as we probably should. ... I do hope that Greenwood Productions will agree to proposed contract revisions because here’s the deal — we receive [what is] called restricted amount of the hotel/motel tax. How we spend hotel/motel tax is supposed to be strictly for programs of marketing or advertisement of Bartow County basically.

“The Department of Community Affairs — the clearest way I’ve ever heard it defined was, ‘OK, so if your community has a fireworks show, you can advertise the fireworks, but you can’t pay for them.’ Unfortunately, we’ve been in a position for now the seventh year, we’ve actually had to pay for part of the fireworks, which is technically — I do have an opinion from the Department of Community Affairs — is technically not in compliance with hotel/motel law. Therefore, now knowing that, I feel confident that the contract revisions that I’ll be proposing for the 2015 and 2016 pageants are totally in compliance with the hotel/motel tax law,” she said, referring to the productions held in 2014 and 2015, which will crown the 2015 and 2016 Miss Georgia USA and Miss Georgia Teen USA winners.

To be held at the Woodland Performing Arts Center, the competitions on Friday and Saturday will evaluate contestants equally in three categories: interview, swimsuit and evening wear. The winner of the Miss Georgia USA competition will advance to the Miss USA pageant, the precursor to Miss Universe. The Miss Georgia Teen USA winner will compete in the Miss Teen USA pageant.

In its seventh year of hosting the pageants, the CVB is expecting to see a 7-to-1 return on its annual investment, with the contests anticipated to have more than a $250,000 economic impact on Bartow County. For Archer, the ability for Cartersville to host these events would not be possible without the support of various sponsors in the community.

“There is so many active causes in this community,” Archer said. “I think it’s amazing that we’ve been able to garner $10,000 worth of sponsorships each year. It’s just amazing. ... Now, all of that being said, the fact of the matter is, ‘Yes, it rustles up over a three-day period over about $250,000. No doubt about it.’ But if we had to pay all of the cost of hosting, it would be a net loss in terms of tax dollars, i.e. if we had to pay all $20,000 plus two or three [thousand] depending on what happens that year, there would actually be more tax dollars going out of Bartow County than coming into Bartow County. And that’s another reason our sponsorships are so doggone important. At the current level that we are — yes, it’s bringing in $250,000 and we are at the break even level on tax flow.

“... Ideally, when you’re spending tax dollars for an economic development project, which is what this is, you not only want to see a return on dollars spent at 7- or 10-to-1, you want to see those tax dollars brought back to you. Because of our sponsorships, the tax money’s going out. It’s about at break even right now and then the $250,000 that’s spent in the community with the various merchants and things. But if we had to foot the entire bill without any sponsorship, we would have a net tax loss to our community. That really tells you in dollars and cents [how important sponsors are].”

Echoing Archer’s comments, Wheeler also is appreciative to the productions’ sponsors and is eagerly anticipating this year’s shows.

“This is certainly crunch time. This is when the phones really start ringing,” Wheeler said. “Everybody is wanting tickets. Everybody is energetic and excited. They’re calling for directions and a number of other things. So we are looking forward to a lot of people arriving on Thursday. We hope that people that are out and about in downtown will see folks out shopping and spending some time in our community.

“We are thrilled. This is one of the largest pageants that we have had in years. In terms of number of contestants, it is not the largest that we’ve hosted. But it’s certainly right up there. And in terms of number of tickets sold, I think that far exceeds what we’ve done in past years. So we’re real excited to be able to show off the Woodland Performing Arts Center and, of course, our community to all of these families from across Georgia.”

For this year’s program, seats will cost $35 for the pageants’ combined preliminary show Friday at 7 p.m. The final shows, which will cost $40 each to attend, will be conducted Saturday at 3:30 and 8 p.m. for the Miss Georgia Teen USA and Miss Georgia USA competitions, respectively. Admission will be half-price for youth ages 13 and younger at every show.

Tickets can be obtained at the Performing Arts Center prior to each competition or by calling the Cartersville-Bartow County CVB at 770-387-1357.