Last week, I suggested that we go the proverbial Full Monty in putting parking on what is aptly called “the Mole Hill,” that two-plus acres across from Food Lion that the board of commissioners inexplicably purchased from the North Carolina Department of Transportation for $442,000.
In light of consultant Roger Brooks’ suggestion that Blowing Rock needs about 1,000 more public parking spaces in town, it was an interesting idea but upon further consideration not the right spot for a parking structure of that size. Ingress and egress are awkward off of a narrow North Main Street, even more problematic if off of Valley Boulevard, and then you have to consider whether or not the DOT would even permit us to mess around with the stability of their bypass (AKA Valley Boulevard).
That may be the wrong location, but the right idea for significantly adding to our parking infrastructure. Buying land in this market may be problematic, too, but maybe some kind of public-private partnership can be negotiated with Tanger Outlets. Maybe the town can negotiate a formal partnership with, say, Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church or First Baptist Church when their lots are not in use for Sunday services, weddings, or funerals, et al. There simply has to be a better way.
As for the Mole Hill, we would be better served to sell it. It was a hasty, poorly thought purchase decision to begin with, in our opinion.
The Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show
As we approach July 26, men, women, and equipment will be arriving for the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show. They come from many different parts of the United States, not just to show their majestic animals, but so many of the officials, too, the people who make it run so smoothly.
An economic impact study conducted several years ago by Appalachian State University economists concluded that the three weeks of horse show events, including the Saddlebred Division as well as the two consecutive weeks of Hunter-Jumper events, has nearly an $8 million impact on the immediate region, with Blowing Rock most significantly impacted. Lodging, eateries, bars, attractions, and retail shops were primary beneficiaries. But if that study was done, say, 10 years ago, then in today’s dollars the impact is probably closer to $10 million or more.
As a one-time member or The Rotary Club of Blowing Rock and as a local journalist, I have probably had more exposure than most to the horse show and what it means to the area. But what I marvel at the most, is that how little the town actually leverages one of its greatest event assets. The vast majority of the shows’ attendees are the participants, the competitors. There is very little in the way of spectator promotion, even though there is a marvelous grandstand, as well as two stories of box seats.
It seems as if the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show Foundation, as well as a myriad number of constituent interests in the town itself would benefit from expanding spectator promotion. If so many people from outside the area come to Blowing Rock for Symphony by the Lake, Art in the Park, Tour of Homes, Winterfest, and the 4th of July Parade, among other special events, why not to see some beautiful athletes put through their paces?
Of course, parking is an issue and, related to that, moving people. The horse show grounds have little more parking capacity, if any, and to be frank, those days when it is muddy from afternoon rains are challenging. But what about a shuttle service? It might be another reason to have another large parking structure on the outskirts of downtown, but also represents an economic opportunity. I suspect that the horse show has just about reached its limits for selling entry fees, program advertising, sponsorships, and the like. Spectator-related revenue seems like a natural fit, from admission receipts to concession and souvenir sales.
And all of those spectators in addition to the actual horse show participants? Well, they further increase the economic impact, too.