San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

October 12th, 2009
'Sights and Sounds' to charge admission


Feeling a pinch from a slow economy after operating at a loss last year, the board of directors for the 23rd Annual Sights and Sounds of Christmas is planning a nominal admission fee for the first time in the event’s history.

A temporary fence will be constructed around San Marcos Plaza for the much-anticipated December festival. Admission will be $1 for children ages 2 through 10, and $2 for attendees age 11 and older. Children younger than two will be admitted free. A limited amount of three-day passes will be issued for the event for $4.

Organizers are still planning to offer free photos with Santa. Employees and volunteers will be issued buttons or t-shirts to gain entry.

“It’s that or cancel the event,” said San Marcos Parks and Recreation Director Rodney Cobb, president of the non-profit organization’s board of directors, about charging an admission fee.  “If we had made the decision to cancel Sights and Sounds, we would for all practical purposes have cut off 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.”

Declining sponsorships and donations coupled with rising costs are cited as the reasons behind the necessary 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.”

Those pennies are what made improvements to the permanent stage at San Marcos Plaza Park which is used for a number of music events and festivals. Sights and Sounds also contributed to the improved park electrical system, as well as significant improvements to the City Parks and Recreation Building. The building was damaged by the fire in April.

The Rec building was used as a Sights and Sounds activity venue, but a large tent must take its place this year.

The “hidden” expenses, that attendees rarely consider are big ticket items for Sights and Sounds. The expenses include tent rental, insurance, shuttle buses for event patrons, trash disposal, electricity and electricians, port-a-potties and security.

“Sights and Sounds has been a wonderful cooperative venture for the past 22 years,” Cobb said.  “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.”

Continued Cobb, “We are hopeful that this sense of cooperation will continue and that the public will be understanding about our dilemma. There are so many people who have worked so hard to make it a San Marcos tradition, and we want that to continue.”

Towns and non-profit organizations all across America are seeing the parameters of their budgets stretched to the breaking point as they try to carry on holiday celebrations in a stagnant economy.

This year, many towns, from Coco Beach, FL, to Petaluma, CA,  canceled their July 4 fireworks displays due to lack of both public and private funding. Shortages of funding in San Jose, CA, have left the town with shorter library hours, less frequent garbage pick-up and the cancellation of several yearly festivals.

Sponsors, contributors and volunteers for this year’s event are currently being solicited, 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 more information, call Cobb at (512) 393-8400.

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0 thoughts on “'Sights and Sounds' to charge admission

  1. The Target abatement could have kept this event going strong for many decades (possibly 100 years or more). This event is part of what makes San Marcos unique (and it has given so much back to San Marcos and local charities). I hope this change doesn’t send it the way of Chilympiad.

  2. I’m a member of a local nonprofit group that has had a booth at Sights & Sounds for the past several years, and I take issue with Cobb’s statement that “If we had made the decision to cancel Sights and Sounds, we would for all practical purposes have cut off fundraising opportunities for any number of local non-profit organizations.” That’s a great sound bite, but it’s hardly true.

    In the first place, I don’t know of any organizations for whom S&S is their only fundraiser. Secondly, I can’t speak for how other groups, but between the highly restrictive rules regarding menu items and the high booth fees, our group has only turned an actual profit from S&S once in the past seven years – and I know we’re not alone in this. Each year, our decision to even do the event ends up being more about publicity than profit.

    Go ahead and talk about how S&S will be missed by the locals and tourists if it is cancelled. Talk about how the facilities would go to waste if not for the event. But don’t try to make it about sympathy for the local non-profits. At least for our group, S&S wouldn’t be missed as a fundraiser.

  3. I womder if any Parks and Rec program comes close to only being $1,000.00 behind? I am sure $1,000.00 could be cut from admisnistrative cost for the department. Does the Activity Center pay for itself? I wonder if it will be on the chopping block next?

  4. How much is the temporary fence going to cost? How about the buttons & t-shirts for volunteers? Do the school kids who perform have to pay? What about their parents and other siblings?
    Couldn’t we have just raised the price on the hot chocolate a little to cover this?
    How much extra security is going to be need to make sure that people pay? How much is that going to cost?
    This is so sad…another sign we’re not a small town anymore.

  5. I agree with Vicki that the extra costs associated with enforcing an admission fee might soak up much of the revenue raised by charging the fee in the first place.

    I disagree, however, on one of her other points. It’s not “sad” that we’re not a small town anymore.

  6. I just don’t go to S&S anymore. When I first moved here, it was the coolest, quaintest little community festival ever! You ran into everyone, ate some good food, waited in line for Santa, the kids had a blast! And Dano is absolutely right- used to be only non-profits had the food and drink booths- Scouts, schools, SMGA, churches, ect. They’ed sell homemade cookies and hot choclate, hot dogs, burgers, whatever. Now,so much.
    It’s ridiculous now, and every year for the last 8 years or so, it’s become increasingly ALL ABOUT THE MONEY. The City staff resources wasted on making the event happen alone are reason enough for the City to let it go.
    Very sad.

  7. I can not imagine Christmas in San Marcos with Sights and Sounds. It is one of the things that makes this town special, still. We are talking a $2 fee, people blow more than that on coffee.

  8. Welcome to the new San Marcos. It’s not what you remembered growing up… its no longer what ANYONE remembers growing up.

    I love how they’ll cough up the money for security to make sure everyone there has paid. Don’t you think we citizens could do without the extra under-educated officers of San Marcos patrolling the oh so dangerous scene at Sights and Sounds? This event can easily and obviously work without charging the citizens yet that’s not their end game and everyone knows it. It’s not about what is necessary, it is about the money. Anyone that says anything else has an angle of their own.

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