Public events are one of the most effective ways a city can promote their brand, engage their residents, attract visitors and boost the local economy. Colorado’s City of Loveland, for one, has furthered their recognition as America’s “Sweetheart City” with innovative use of events and festivals. The city has made Valentine’s Day their own with the popular Loveland Fire and Ice Festival. “This event is a great opportunity for us to showcase what makes downtown Loveland so special,” said organizer Nate Webb, owner of Blazen Illuminations in a press release.
Loveland Fire and Ice Festival. Courtesy Lee Tyson
This year’s Fire and Ice Festival brought in crowds of more than 24,000 people – making it one of the largest Valentine’s Day events in the nation. We wanted to know what makes this festival successful from a city leadership perspective, so we asked Loveland City Manager Bill Cahill a few questions about how the city handles and benefits from large public events like this.
NRC:What impact on quality of life do festivals and events have for residents?
Bill Cahill: Two things come to mind. First, these events are opportunities for connection. It’s wonderful when we can bring our residents together for a collective good time, a party, and that’s what most of our festivals and events do. We’ve got an annual event calendar that affords plenty of opportunities for people to meet and have fun, and so many of the people who live in Loveland take advantage.
Second, to the extent that some of these events draw attention from outside Loveland, they all reflect well on who we are as a community. For example, we have a lively art scene in Loveland. “Fire and Ice” demonstrates that. So do events like “Pastels on Fifth Street,” drawing artists from around the region each summer. They create a fun and inventive array of artworks, each created in chalk on a single square of downtown sidewalk. Such events are part of our brand. Events and festivals, and the attention they draw from both inside and outside the community, contribute to raising Loveland’s profile in the most beneficial ways possible.
NRC: How does the Fire and Ice Festival help the City of Loveland?
Bill Cahill: The most obvious way is that it comes in February, when most cities have big holes in their calendars. Coinciding with Valentine’s Day – which is our city’s trademark holiday – we have something unique to offer people from all over the region, without much in the way of competition. We’re seeing more and more out-of-town visitors with each Fire and Ice presentation. We like that.
NRC: How does the city prepare/react to safety concerns associated with large events?
Bill Cahill: We have lots of history and experience with big events, and we’ve developed a pretty seamless way of addressing issues like safety and security with each of them. Take, for example, the two most recent opportunities for Loveland to host one of the six-day stages of the USA Pro Challenge international bicycle race. Those required lots of collaboration and coordination among the City’s Police, Public Works, Economic Development and other departments. We’re good at that. And, when these big events happen, you’ll find City employees not only working to make them successful, but taking part in them and having a good time.
NRC: How do festivals and events affect the city's economy?
Bill Cahill: Like most other Colorado Front Range communities, we depend on tourism and visitation for a slice of our revenue pie. We budget for that. We know that if we give people from outside Loveland fun reasons to come here, they will. When they do, they stay, eat and shop in our community, and with each of those purchases comes a bit of sales tax revenue that is the bedrock of any city’s overall budget. It’s good for us, and it’s good for our visitors.
NRC: How does the city decide which events to support or not to support?
Bill Cahill: We encourage events that are consistent with our art-centered brand, and our City vision. That vision, officially, is “a vibrant community, surrounded by natural beauty, where you belong.” So, when we have applications from groups that want to sponsor major events in Loveland, we look to those that have connection to arts, healthy living, outdoor recreation and, most of all, fun. We also want to be known as a place where people can have cultural and entertainment experiences that are beyond the pale, out of the ordinary. Loveland is a fun community, and we want to broadcast that.
NRC: What are your personal thoughts on the Fire and Ice Festival?
Bill Cahill: Downtown snow sculpture. Fireworks. Together. In the dead of winter, when the rest of the world is pretty much buttoned up. What’s not to like about that? It’s part of the uniqueness [of Loveland].
Featured Image: Loveland Fire and Ice Festival. Courtesy Lee Tyson