Financial losses lead to the cancellation of Balloon Extravaganza

Contributed article

SAFFORD — Executive Director Vance Bryce has recommended the events and finance committees of the Graham County Chamber of Commerce stop hosting the Gila Valley Balloon Extravaganza starting this year. Members of each committee accepted the recommendation. Last New Year’s, the event drew 20 hot air balloon pilots to the Gila Valley in a spectacular aerial display of bright colors and skillful maneuvers.

Unfortunately, the communication strategy of the sponsors of the Chamber, the contracts of the suppliers and the financing plan were not sufficient to ensure the financial success of the event.

Reed Richins, chairman of the chamber’s board of directors, said: “The business model hasn’t worked. We can’t have events that lose that much money. I’m sure Vance is learning some hard lessons and changing the way we do business.

All Chamber events are funded by staff who negotiate sponsorships and solicit in-kind donations. The goal is to break even or earn some income in the process. In the case of the Balloon Extravaganza, the Chamber was unsuccessful and had to dip into much-needed operating funds to pay all the bills. While the Chamber brought in $11,241.89 in revenue from sponsors and product sales for the event, expenses came in at $39,169.16, leaving a deficit of $27,927.27 in the plan. of financing.

Chamber staff and board are disappointed, but understand the decision to discontinue the event.

“I’m definitely learning a lot about where I failed leading this team. I didn’t have a plan B for the bad weather or I didn’t understand how much I had underfunded the event. It was clear to me that the model we were using to pay for the event was seriously flawed and that I had to recommend stopping our event,” Bryce said. “A freshman event is always tough when it comes to to pay all the bills, and we expected to make an investment the first time, but not as big an investment. I was unable to come up with a plan that would be different enough from the first year to make a difference and justify holding the event a second year.

Some procedural changes Bryce is implementing to create more sustainable events include a much more robust budgeting process, better sponsor communications plan, clear and binding vendor contracts, and incentives for all chamber staff to raise funds to create amazing events for everyone in the Gila Valley and beyond.

“I am disappointed with my performance. I use it as fuel to do much better in the future. I am grateful for the patience of our team. I think the only people most disappointed are our most important suppliers, the staff and the volunteer crew of our local balloon pilots. I am terribly sorry that we are unable to continue to organize this event. I would like to invite the community to contact me with your concerns and recommendations at my email address, [email protected]

The mission of the Graham County Chamber of Commerce is to improve the quality of life for everyone in the Gila Valley through connection, leadership and tourism. The Chamber and Safford Lions Club will host the popular SalsaFest on September 23-24 at Firemen’s Park in Safford.