AJF News

Ada Fest Impacts Economic Development

9/12/2017 by Jessika Leatherbury
Tags: adafest

Ada Fest Impacts Economic Development

Ada Fest is an arts and music festival held at the end of summer.  The original Ada Fest was an outdoor event in the 1990’s held on Main Street.  The event was “rebooted” several years ago and moved to the Ada Arts District and the ECU Plaza.  The newer version of Ada Fest focuses on showcasing Roots, Country, and Americana music performances with local artists and food trucks.  This year, the event expanded to the central business district and non-profits raised money by selling gods, food, and beverages on Main Street.

The Ada Fest Committee sent us some figures on the economic impact of this year’s event.  They estimated 13,000 people attended the event all day.  They estimated a direct economic impact of $471,250, assuming each attendee spends an average of $36.25 during the day in Ada.  They estimated that with a 6x multiplier, the direct spending will eventually generate an additional $2,827,500 in consumer spending.  This figure could generate up to $113,100 in total sales tax revenue for the City of Ada.  In addition, the participating non-profits raised $4,700 in total.  The event budget for this year was $40,655.

Events such as Ada Fest are important to more “mainstream” economic development efforts in a variety of ways, but two functions stand out in particular beyond sheer dollars of impact.  First, these events help contribute to a culture of creativity and represent a form of entrepreneurship not often addressed by economic development efforts.  Arts based businesses are often “export” businesses, either selling to patrons outside of the local market or bringing them in to pay for performances and exhibitions.  In addition, there appears to be some connection between the creativity valued in arts businesses and the creativity required to create other new products, services, and technology.

Second, these events help shift the narrative of a place such as Ada.  They signify that Ada is a place where things happen, where quality of life is high.  It signifies vibrancy, most of all.  This narrative runs counter to the notions that rural and small towns are places where nothing happens, where talent leaves for bigger cities, and where activity begins to fade. 

Bridging the gap between place-based quality of life and economic activity has been a common theme in economic development for more than a few years at this point.  However, this appears to be less common in rural areas.  This year’s Ada Fest joins the Momentum Ada show, East End Eats, Art After 6 Events at the Grandview as significant, grassroots arts events in addition to efforts by East Central University, the Chickasaw Nation, and others to grow and support the arts in Ada.