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A new festival is coming to the Union Square District in the fall and the El Dorado Advertising and Promotion Commission has approved funding to support the event.

Main Street El Dorado is building a festival around a sanctioned Kansas City Barbecue Society grilling competition.

The Smokin’ on the Square Fall Festival is set for Oct. 25 and 26 in downtown El Dorado.

On Tuesday, the A&P commission approved a $4,296 funding request to help promote the festival.

Beth Brumley, executive director of Main Street, presented the request and told commissioners that Main Street decided late last year to plan a new festival for downtown El Dorado.

Brumley said MSE board members were encouraged by the level of participation in grilling competitions that the organization hosted downtown during summer events and the holiday season in 2018.

She said MSE has joined the ever-growing trend of hosting grilling competitions, particularly those sanctioned by KCBS, across the country.

The competitions tend to draw flocks of out-of-town visitors, including teams, judges and spectators, Brumley noted.

The Spirit of Christmas Steak Cookoff held last December drew grilling teams from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan, all of whom appeared to enjoy the mild, late-fall temperatures in El Dorado, Brumley said.

“They were walking around in shorts in December, and I thought, ‘OK,’” Brumley said with a laugh.

She said Main Street is hoping for more of the same in the fall.

“(KCBS) said that we can look for a minimum of 20 teams. A team consists of four to five people, so we’re looking for, hopefully, at least a hundred people, out-of-town people for this, just the barbecue portion,” she explained.

Festival activities will be held in conjunction with the grilling competition to increase foot traffic for downtown retail shops and restaurants and to encourage overnight stays in local hotels, Brumley said.

Activities will include games, Kids World, hayrides, arts and crafts, food vendors and a petting zoo.

With an autumn theme, the festival will also offer activities that are fitting for the season, including pumpkin-pie baking and eating contests, Brumley added.

Tribute bands for Journey and Lynyrd Skynyrd will perform live on the square.

Brumley said Main Street is partnering with the Murphy Arts District, who is planning activities for the first night of the festival as grillers arrive in town.

Admission into the festival will be free while some activities, including the petting zoo and concessions, will be paid, Brumley explained, adding that Main Street is looking to the Fall Festival to become a new fundraiser for the nonprofit organization.

“We’re hoping to hit advertising pretty heavy since it is a new event that’s harder to get people to,” Brumley said.

She said the funding request will help to cover advertising costs for radio, TV and social media.

As part of the A&P guidelines for funding requests, groups requesting funding must target visitors at least 50 miles outside El Dorado.

Commissioners also look more favorably upon multi-day events that help to “put heads in beds” of local lodging establishments.

The commission draws its revenue from a 3 percent lodging tax.

Dianne Hammond, A&P chairman and a member of the El Dorado City Council, asked Brumley if Main Street had procured any other sponsors for the festival.

Brumley said the Murphy Foundation and downtown property owner/developer Pete Dunn are helping to sponsor the event and that Main Street is looking for other sponsors.

A&P commissioners unanimously approved the request.

Commissioner Sanjay Patel said money was available in the non-designated line item in the commission’s 2019 budget of $20,000.

Distrx

In other business, Brumley updated commissioners on efforts to get rolling on a mobile app that is designed for Main Street cities across the country.

The Distrx app provides location-based services for local businesses and attractions and notifies users of any special offers, sales or promotions that participating businesses may offer.

She said Main Street is testing out the app, which combines GPS and iBeacon technologies to help visitors navigate downtown and find special promotions offered by retail shops and restaurants.

Additionally, Main Street is working with the El Dorado Historic District Commission to add a historic walking tour brochure to the app to enhance the downtown experience for locals and visitors.

Brumley said Main Street is installing an audio file — featuring narration by former El Dorado Mayor Mike Dumas and Donna Bradshaw, a member of the Main Street board of directors and a former local radio personality —, along with the use of iBeacon messaging, for the walking brochure.

Main Street is also exploring options to advertise the availability of the app, including signage and informational and business cards for downtown businesses who sign on to the app and a display on the city’s two digital billboards at the El Dorado Conference Center and near the El Dorado Municipal Auditorium, Brumley said.

Hammond suggested that the group speak with the Department of Public Works to post signs around downtown notifying people about the app.

Brumley said the goal is to have the app up and running by June 22, which will be the first installment of Showdown at Sunset and the Summer Concert Series for 2019.

“So we really want to start advertising that,” Brumley told commissioners.

Last November, the A&P commission approved a $3,500 request to assist Main Street in joining Distrx.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@eldoradonews.com.

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