Front Royal to take role in hosting local events

FRONT ROYAL — The town might take a more active role in hosting events in Front Royal aimed at drawing local residents.

Town Council on Monday supported the idea of letting Front Royal’s administration put on local events. Town Manager Steve Burke suggested events such as movies at the gazebo, a back-to-school rally and a community flea market among others.

To kick off the effort, Burke asked council if the town should put on a holiday home decorating contest. People could enter their homes in the competition and the town would award winners a certain amount of credit on their electricity bill, Burke said. Council members were quick to remind Burke that the holiday season looms.

Mayor Timothy Darr and council members voiced support for Burke and letting the town manager handle the logistics of the effort.

“I’m in favor of moving forward with these things,” Darr said. “Council needs to give you basically an endorsement to say, hey, move forward with some of these ideas on your own. I don’t think we, as council, need to be involved in the level of detail.”

The discussion at the work session Monday stemmed from a Virginia Main Street Essentials workshop held in September in Winchester by the Department of Housing and Community Development that Burke attended with Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Camp and Visitor Center Coordinator Tim Smith.

“A number of ideas were presented there,” Burke said. “Recognizing that we’ve not achieved a Virginia Main Street Program yet, in talking with the Economic Committee and staff, we would recommend that the town assume some leadership role in performing some of the tasks that are typically undertaken by the group that is overseeing the Virginia Main Street program.”

As Burke recalled, part of the workshop discussion pointed out that many local events run by outside groups serve to attract tourists rather than serve the local community.

Burke said Winchester plays a role in hosting events aimed at drawing local residents.

“The draw of outside tourists is definitely a needed and valued goal,” Burke said. “But also trying to generate local interest in our community is something that Virginia Main Street Program supports and promotes.”

Burke then asked that if council wanted the town to play a bigger role in hosting local events, would members also support the formation of a tourism committee. The panel would then gather public input on what events the community could support, Burke said. Ultimately, the town would need to budget money for events, possibly beginning in fiscal 2015.

Councilman Bret Hrbek suggested that the town could make the program more robust by using money already set aside for economic development. The mayor’s Economic Committee is looking at the possibility of hiring someone to take on economic development and, as Hrbek suggested, could also head up the effort by the town to host local events.

<em>Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or <a href=“mailto:abridges@nvdaily.com”>abridges@nvdaily.com</a></em>