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.Email | Print