(Fremont Co., Wyo) - Think of your favorite Lander activity to attend: Native American Dancing, The International Climber’s Festival, the Pioneer Day’s Parade, half marathon or the FART bike race. Now think of the throngs of people these events bring to town, staying in hotels, eating at restaurants, shopping at stores. They come, at least in part, thanks to funds from Fremont County’s lodging tax which allows organizations to advertise the events that make Lander special and also boost the economy.
Nine Lander organizations received a grant to promote an event this year through funds from the Wind River Visitors Council’s lodging tax. The Lander Chamber of Commerce allocated $7,600 spread out to the Lander Pioneer Days Parade, the Museum of the American West, the International Climber’s Festival, the Lander Swim Club, the Lander Triathlon Club, the Lander Community Foundation, the Lander Cycling Club, the Lander Art Center and the One Shot Hunt Club.
In fiscal year 2012-2013 Fremont County collected $629,364 from the lodging tax. Twenty-five percent of that money is then distributed back into the towns (Dubois, Lander, Riverton, Shoshoni, Hudson) within the county. Tourism Asset Development, or TAD, funds are often used for promoting local events.
Lander is using grant money to build a kiosk at Centennial Park that will include information on the activities people can do in Lander, said Scott Goetz, director of the Lander Chamber of Commerce.
The lodging tax is crucial to growing the community’s economy, he said. In 2012 tourists spend $139.6 million in Fremont County.
“It’s kind of a no-brainer to me,” Goetz said. “Without the ability to promote our events and our activities we’d see less visitation at them. Less visitation means less people in town spending money on hotels, visiting stores, buying gas and eating in restaurants.”
Last summer about 1,500 people attended Lander’s River Fest, despite the cloudy day. In the five years the Lander Art Center has hosted the event – which features live music and artists – it gets better each year, said Lisa Hueneke, executive director.
The money the art center uses for advertising lets visitors know about River Fest, but it also helps reach local people, Hueneke said.
For the art center, the advertising money is crucial for the center to keep putting on River Fest.
“We are a nonprofit and we’re small,” Hueneke said. “We depend on these local grants as much as the larger grants we go after.”