NEWBERRY — The City of Newberry announced last week that the annual Taste of Newberry event has been cancelled for this year. The event was scheduled to be on June 21.
Mary Alex Kopp, tourism and events coordinator for the City of Newberry, said that overall there were a variety of planning conflicts that led to the decision to cancel the event this year.
A Taste of Newberry, originally hosted by the Newberry Opera House, was passed on to the City of Newberry earlier this year, when they no longer were going to host the event.
Kopp said that City Manager Al Harvey wanted the city to take on the event for the benefit of the community.
One of the reasons Kopp said the event fell through was due to lack of funding for advertising.
“We had a limited amount of time from when we found out,” Kopp said.
The city’s new fiscal year begins in July, and without long-term notice, the funding was not available in the current year’s budget to do the typical amount of advertising.
The amount spent on fliers and other advertising was coming out of an office budget, Kopp said.
“We typically do radio announcements and television commercials,” Kopp said. “That’s the stuff that gets our crowds and what people are used to seeing.”
When trying to plan this year’s Taste of Newberry event, Kopp said they had taken what the Opera House used to do and tried to include all of downtown, creating a traffic pattern to include all of Main Street, rather than just in the area of Memorial Park like in the past.
Kopp said that 12 shops on Main Street had confirmed that they would remain open late to accommodate the 4-8 p.m. hours of the event. However, out of 23 businesses invited to participate in the event downtown, only six confirmed by the deadline on May 23.
“We were hoping for the 12-15 range,” Kopp said.
Although she said she was disheartened to make the calls informing patrons that the event was cancelled, Kopp felt the city made the right decision in cancelling the event.
“My vision for A Taste of Newberry is all things local and all things Newberry, Kopp said. “I didn’t want our first attempt to lose the event’s reputation due to circumstances beyond our control.”
Many local businesses that have been a part of the event in the past declined simply because they had prior engagements. For example, the owner of Fusion in Newberry was apologetic that he would not have been able to attend simply because they were understaffed that evening. They would not have been able to staff their restaurant as well as the event.
Kopp said she did not want to put a burden on the six businesses that agreed to participate to have purchased everything, and not have a large enough turnout.
Next year’s event
Although A Taste of Newberry will not happen this year, Kopp said it gives the city plenty of time to organize a great event next year, which is already in the planning stages.
The City of Newberry will host the event next year on June 20, 2015.
“We really wanted to reinvent for next year so it’s conducive to everyone downtown,” Kopp said.
The original plan was to move everything out of Memorial Park to get downtown shops involved, but Kopp said several restaurants were not keen on that option.
“They thought they would lose some social aspect of the event,” Kopp said.
Next year’s A Taste of Newberry is now planned to have food downtown as usual in Memorial Park, along with a variety of live music. Kopp said they really want to feature local musicians.
The culinary stage, usually represented at the city’s Oktoberfest event, will become a part of A Taste of Newberry instead, Kopp said.
“Oktoberfest has sort of outgrown that part,” Kopp said. “I think A Taste of Newberry will be a more proper setting to let local cooks showcase their talent.”
The time frame will remain 4-8 p.m., as it’s thought to be a good compromise between the restaurant and store owners’ operating hours, as they would each only tack on a couple hours to their work days.
Because Kopp said she had gotten feedback that Friday events were not always as convenient for the community, the event will be held on a Saturday.
“When it’s on Friday, it’s more difficult for your typical working person to get home, change, and get there,” Kopp said.
Kopp said she really wants the event to be a Newberry showcase that encourages visitors to come back and see what all Newberry has to offer — bringing visitors back to shop, dine, and maybe potentially live in the community.
“The funding will be better for advertising next year,” Kopp said. “I can’t wait to see what I can do with next year.”