For the first time in its 22-year history, people attending the Sights and Sounds of Christmas festival in San Marcos will pay a small admission fee.
“It’s that or cancel the event,” says Rodney Cobb, president of the non-profit organization’s board of directors. “If we had made the decision to cancel Sights and Sounds, we would for all practical purposes have cutoff fundraising opportunities for any number of local non-profit organizations, from the Boy Scouts to the Fraternal Order of Police and the First United Pentecostal Church.”
Admission will be $1 for children ages two through ten and $2 for those 11 and up. There will be no charge for children under the age of two. Three-day passes will be sold prior to the event for $4; there will be a limited number. The organizers are still planning to continue offering free photos with Santa to all children who attend.
Cobb said a temporary fence will be constructed around San Marcos Plaza Park for the festival.
Wristbands will be issued to children scheduled to perform for the event. Each performance wristband issued will be good for one evening at Sights and Sound. Volunteers, city staff and vendors working the event will be issued tee-shirts, buttons and wristbands to ease their access to the grounds.
With crowds estimated at 50,000 over the three days, longtime volunteers say those attending are a nice mix of local residents and out-of-towners. The majority of food vendors are local non-profits.
Declining sponsorships and donations, along with rising costs, are cited as the culprits behind the necessity to add the admission charge.
“We finished $1,000 in the hole last year,” Cobb said. “People have thought that Sights and Sounds has raked in tons of money each year, but the fact is that just about every penny raised has been poured back into the community.”
Significant permanent improvements made to San Marcos’ parks as a result of Sights and Sounds include construction of the permanent stage at San Marcos Plaza Park that is used by many other local festivals and special events, as well as a vastly improved park electrical system. Sights and Sounds revenue also made significant improvements to the City Park Recreation Building which was damaged by the fire that destroyed the adjoining Lions Club Tube Rental Building last April.
Since the Rec Building was used as a Sights and Sounds activity venue, another large tent must be rented to take its place this year.
Tent rental is already a big ticket item for Sights and Sounds. Others include insurance, transportation (buses to transport attendees from outlying parking areas), lighting, electricity and electricians, trash disposal, port-a-potties and security.
“Sights and Sounds has been a wonderful cooperative venture for the past 22 years,” Cobb says. “Cooperating entities include the City of San Marcos, the San Marcos public schools who have provided creative entertainment and Texas State University which has provided many student volunteers, as well as local churches and non-profits,” he adds.
“We are hopeful that this sense of cooperation will continue and that the public will be understanding about our dilemma,” says Cobb. “There are so many people who have worked so hard to make it a San Marcos tradition, and we want that to continue.”
Sponsors, contributors and volunteers for this year’s event are currently being sought, Cobb says, along with underwriters for the Sights and Sounds Gala fundraiser. Contributions may be mailed to Sights and Sounds of Christmas, P O Box 1896, San Marcos, TX 78667-1896. For telephone information, call Cobb at (512) 393-8400.
— PAT MURDOCKEmail | Print
Charge admission to Sights and Sounds? Will a family of six be charged admission in order to see its child sing on stage? I liked the event much better in its earlier years before the group morphed it from a nice community celebration into a Central Texas extravaganza–a classic case of “mission creep”. The organization in which I participate has never done as well financially from sales since Sights and Sounds took over selling beverages some years ago. I thought that move was temporary in order to pay for improved electrical wiring and that was fine; but it never ended. The more jaded among us figured that the move from cash sales to tokens was more to guage how much money we were taking in rather than safety issues surrounding handling cash. We seriously considered kissing-off Sights and Sounds altogether some years ago, but decided to continue for the lessons that such an event might teach our young participants–planning and organizing something outside of our usual routine, meeting the public in a commercial setting, adhering to safety and health regulations. We cannot afford to lose money on this venue in order to teach those lessons–we can teach them elsewhere. To the Sights and Sounds Committee–please consider returning the event and its spirit to earlier times.