By Tara Jones
For Civitas Media
FORT LORAMIE — The 34th annual Country Concert is projected to bring in approximately $14,800,000 in regional economic impact as estimated by the Sidney Visitors Bureau.
This estimate was prepared using the most recent average visitor spending data available from TourismOhio, the state’s official travel and tourism office. In addition, assumptions were made concerning several variables such as total attendance volumes, local versus out of town attendees and the number of overnight stays in area hotel and camping venues.
Jeff Raible, president of the Sidney-Shelby Chamber of Commerce, said it is important to emphasize the economic impact can merely be an “educated guess.”
“All we can really do is estimate how many people are going to come, what the accommodations are expected to be and approximately how much they’re going to spend each day,” he said. “There’s no exact science here for us to be able to zero in to anything.”
Raible also emphasized this estimate is regional in nature because Country Concert does not effect just Shelby County alone. Since the county does not have enough hotel rooms to accommodate all of the visitors, some guests also stay in Miami, Auglaize and other nearby hotels. Guests then also spend money in those other areas at stores, gas stations and restaurants, Raible said.
“We can only estimate a regional economic impact,” Raible said. “The event is not confined to one particular town or county.”
Last year’s forecasted regional economic impact came in at $11,800,000. TourismOhio has increased their estimated expenditures for overnight travelers and Ohio has increased the forecasted amount of day spending, both which have had an impact on this year’s increase in projected revenue. Raible also increased the projected attendance for the three-day event from 60,000 last year, to 70,000 for 2014.
“Because the state of Ohio is forecasting higher expenditures by travelers and because I escalated my total attendance by 10 thousand, that then translates to an additional three million in additional expenditures,” Raible said. “We expect regional economic impact to be higher this year, but we find it very difficult to quantify the exact level of increase.”
Country Concert also offers a 500-acre facility that hosts camp sites for concertgoers with a variety of options. There are sites ranging from those complete with water and electric to sites reserved merely for tents.
Paul Barhorst, general manager of Country Concert, also said it looks as if this year’s concert will bring in more campers than last year.
“We’re getting a great response to the superstar lineup we have,” Barhorst said. “A lot of people that come and camp have made this a tradition year after year.”
With increasing activity as the concert dates approach, the camping sites are filling up, which makes it difficult to keep an exact tally of the number of sites sold.
Barhorst said this year’s concert is bringing in new people from not only across the United States, but across several other countries as well.
With an improved ticket office that now has 10 windows at the main entrance and a new saloon stage, this year’s Country Concert hopes to host bigger productions and more people.
Country Concert also offers indirect economic impact, benefiting not only Hickory Hill Lakes, the site of the concert, but also local businesses and not-for-profit groups.
Martha Holscher of Fort Loramie, is the owner of the Dairy King and Motel, a local ice cream and motel business in Fort Loramie. She said Country Concert is easily one of the businesses’s highest grossing weekends.
“Most of the time when people leave the concert area they’re looking for food and a lot of them stop for ice cream and they send their friends and it snowballs,” Holscher said.
The concert crowd typically increases the Dairy King’s revenue approximately 20 percent, she said. People are not just flocking to the Dairy King for sweets, however. Holscher’s 10 motel rooms are full of concert-goers that booked their rooms a year in advance. The motel also has a waiting list of about 25 people in case of a cancellation, demonstrating the demand for hotel rooms near the concert site.
Several not-for-profit groups also benefit from the event, Raible said, including the Red Cross, Newport Sportsmen Club and Fort Loramie volunteer fire department.
“Generally speaking there are a number of not-for-profit groups that play a role at Country Concert,” Raible said. “Because of that involvement, there are monies raised to help support their mission.”
With Country Concert attracting several out-of-town gusts, Raible hopes the concert also showcases all Shelby County has to offer.
“I’d like to think folks that take a hotel room take the opportunity to get to know the area,” he said. “That opportunity plants a seed in travelers’ minds to come back again another time and visit … and to get to know the community a little bit better.”
Raible said along with events such as the Shelby County Fair, the Mayfest Soccer Classic, the American Youth Basketball Tour and the Rebel Run, Country Concert is one of the county’s largest sources of revenue.
“I would say by far Country Concert has the most substantial economic impact of any travel and tourism related attraction for Shelby County,” he said.
The three-day event comes to Shelby County this Thursday, Friday and Saturday.