Financing still key for future expos

October 5, 2010

• Republic editorial

• First Posted: October 05, 2010 - 8:57 am

In one respect, Ethnic Expo, which gets under way this weekend, is entering a new phase in its quarter-century history.

This will be the first year in which the celebration of Columbus' cultural demographics will not be dependent in great part on the financial backing of government.

Public sector support of the annual event has been a mainstay since 1984 when the city's first lady, Barbara Stewart, developed the concept of bringing attention to the city's quickly changing population.

Much of that support came through the provision of services such as police protection and traffic control along with set-up and tear-down activities.But there also has been a direct infusion of city dollars.

For several years advertising in media outside Columbus was paid for through money generated by the city's now-defunct Telecommunications Fund.

Those days are becoming a distant memory. The Telecommunications Fund is no longer a separate entity, and the city has been forced to tighten its belt in recent years just to balance the budget.

One of those belt-tightening steps was to reduce its financial support of Ethnic Expo. The decision was not abrupt.

Mayor Fred Armstrong put the public on notice early last year that the city would no longer be able to pick up the tab.Fortunately, First Financial Bank - which took over many of the assets of Irwin Union Bank and Trust Co. - stepped into the breach by pledging $25,000 for this year's expo.

While planning for this weekend's event is obviously paramount for organizers, the thought of how to put together and support future expos should remain on the front burner.

The gift from First Financial saved the day for this year, but organizers need to broaden financing goals for future events in order to ensure continuity.

While Ethnic Expo certainly has cost a great deal of money through its life, it has also paid huge dividends to both the public and private sectors.

With crowds estimated at various times in the range of 25,000, it has become one of the most significant draws of visitors to the community and has yielded the additional benefit of creating a destination for local residents.

As the community is well into its efforts to revitalize the downtown, the importance of Ethnic Expo in realizing that goal can't be overstated.

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