Savannah to vote on two-day St. Patrick's Festival proposal Wednesday

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - During Wednesday's city council meeting, Savannah city leaders will decide how long this year's St. Patrick's Day Festival will last.

City staff is recommending a two-day festival for the dates of March 16-17.

The day of the week is one big consideration in determining the festival's length. City leaders are also considering the overall economic impact the festival has on their bottom line.

What city council members heard in a recent work session is, the return isn't that great. A study conducted by Georgia Southern's Bureau of Business Research and Economic Development showed city leaders that last year's festival raked in between $147,000 and $285,000 in additional tax revenue linked to the holiday weekend.  The city paid just over $372,000 in overtime for police services alone.

Savannah's Chief Operating Officer, Marty Johnston, said, "Last year, we took a good look at it and felt like we put a lot of resources downtown, for a minimal amount of impact. This is an event we want our businesses to have great success in and everybody to have a good time and all those kinds of things, and really, the third day didn't give us the bang for our buck that we thought."

The COO said they are taking more than just their hit to resources into consideration when looking at a two-day festival. They also look at the impact to downtown residents and businesses.

"We just felt like two days will get the businesses who benefit from the festival, give them an opportunity to do what they want to do, but not over-tax the businesses, the staff...even the people who live downtown," Johnston said.

Johnston said there will be some noticeable ramping up of policing and sanitation efforts come parade time, too.

"We have some challenges, yes. Is it the parade? No. It is people staying, for instance, in Chippewa Square, and when the parade is over, and they move out of Chippewa Square, it's destroyed."

The city also wants parents of teens planning on watching the parade, from the squares to the streets, to know they'll also be focusing even more on cracking down on underage drinking.

One thing city council could be considering as early as next year will be looking at hiring an event manager to handle the festival organization as well as events leading up to the holiday.

Johnston says an event manager would have certain advantages such as planning multiple events and courting sponsorship.

"Wouldn't it be great to have signature events throughout the community for the whole month? And I think those are the kinds of things that when you hire an event planner and a festival person, that's the kind of festival you start to develop."

In addition to the festival length, they'll also be setting the festival zone. The proposed Festival Control Zone is East Broad Street on the east, the Savannah River on the north, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on the west, and Broughton Lane from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the east side of Drayton Street to Bay Lane to East Broad Street.

We'll let you know what is decided during the meeting.

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