Rain lowered Westobou Festival turnout

The Arts in the Heart of Augusta and Westobou festivals have a mantra for next year -- rain, rain go away.


Attendance for the Westobou festival was down this year, primarily because numbers for the Arts in the Heart of Augusta festival, which opens the 10-day event, were down 20 percent.

"It's because it rained on Friday night," said Brenda Durant, the executive director of the Greater Augusta Arts Council, the presenting organization of Arts in the Heart. "That's our rainy weekend number."

It rained on the festival's opening night, and threatened rain the second day of the three-day festival also.

Ms. Durant said attendance equaled 2007's numbers, a year which also had to contend with stormy weather. Ms. Durant said numbers were also affected by rain in Columbia County on Saturday.

Westobou attendance fell from approximately 100,000 in 2008 to 85,636 in 2009. Kathy Dimmock, the executive director of the Westobou Festival, said the drop reflects the drop in Arts in the Heart attendance.

Attendance at the other Westobou events, she said, increased, from approximately 20,000 to 21,636. Ms. Dimmock acknowledged that weather played a significant role in attendance and said Westobou plans to continue its association with Arts in the Heart.

"We still think this is a very strong partnership," she said. "It's an event we are proud to have associated with Westobou and a great way to celebrate that opening weekend."

Ms. Dimmock said Westobou's economic impact, using the Georgia Department of Economic Development formula, was approximately $6.2 million, down from $7.18 million in 2008.

"With the economic downturn, that's about what we expected," she said.

In comparison, the ESi Ironman 70.3 triathlon, held the day after the final Westobou event, represented an approximately $4.7 million impact in the local community.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.