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Vermillion City Council Embraces Shakespeare Festival

The Vermillion City Council isn't afraid to bank on some crazy artists to bring more economic development to town. At its Monday meeting, the council approved becoming an official sponsor of the new South Dakota Shakespeare Festival. Coyoteopoly, a corporation run by students of the USD Beacom School of Business, and the USD College of Fine Arts are planning to hold the first outdoor Shakespeare fest June 8&ndash10, 2012.

The city's not on the hook for any money; the resolution passed Monday simply gives the city's blessing and holds out the possibility that the city may make improvements this fall to Prentis Park, the planned venue on the east side of Vermillion. Reporter David Lias says Prentis Park has an outdoor amphitheater that hasn't been used for years. The festival planners hope to bring 2000 people to the amphitheater each evening of the festival next year.

6000 people... let's do some math! Coyoteopoly CEO Brandon Lyle says the Oregon Shakespeare Festival last year drew 400,000 attendees who generated close to $62 million in economic activity. Let's see... $155 per attendee, 6000 attendees... at that rate, Vermillion could see $930,000 in additional business during next summer's festival. Coyoteopoly has planned a budget of $30,000, to be obtained through fundraising and corporate sponsorships. Even if the Shakespeare Festival draws only half the hoped-for crowd, it generates a 15:1 return on investment for the community.

Three days of Shakespeare in the park—that's a heck of an idea! I am thrilled to see that the hard-nosed capitalists we are training in our state's business school recognize the economic development potential of the arts.

Say, Coyoteopoly, I think I know a blog that could advertise to your target market....


  1. Michael Black 2011.04.13

    Problems with your assumptions:
    1. Many of the attendees will be local, repeats for the three days.
    2. Vermillion isn't Sioux Falls. There are few places to eat and even fewer places to shop. People are not going to stay for three days, enjoying theatre at night after shopping all day. They will more than likely drive to Vermillion and then go home.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.04.13

    Darn, you're right, Michael. Vermillion will probably only get a 10:1 return on the investment, and three measly nights of fun family entertainment in an underutilized park. What was the council thinking?

    By the way, Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, isn't Sioux Falls, either. Population 22,000. They draw 400,000 visitors a year. Dream big.

  3. Brad K. 2011.04.13

    Wish it was this year! Finally something cool!

  4. Eve Fisher 2011.04.13

    And the Utah Shakespeare Festival - which I've attended - is in Cedar City, Utah, population 20,000. It started 50 years ago, with a budget of $1,000 and 3000 attended: now it brings in over 150,000 people, its budget is $6 million, and it brings in $64 million to Cedar City and its environs. In other words, if someone will actually take some risks - instead of just saying, 'well, that won't work' - amazing things can happen.

  5. tonyamert 2011.04.14

    In Rapid we do the summer nights program:

    which I guess would be a public/private partnership type thing. Local sponsors and city funding combined. This gets thousands of people downtown every thursday during the summer for music, fun, etc. It's a super successful program. The city runs busses to satellite parking lots so that traffic isn't a problem. I think that it may be very successful partially due to the existing summer tourist industry in the hills. It's heavily marketed towards the tourists as well locals (I would say 80% locals and 20% tourists).

    The businesses downtown love it because they have seen a huge upswing in business since it began. I think that this was also the catalyst for the redevelopment of the downtown area to create a more formal venue for the weekly events.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.04.14

    Cool, Tony! Brookings has done some downtown music and similar events to drive business as well. Make shopping an event, more than just walking around the aisles of Walmart, and you'll draw people. People want more than stuff; they want an experience.

  7. Wayne Pauli 2011.04.14

    Summer nights in Rapid City are tons of fun. Getting shoe horned into the Firehouse reminds me of my old college days...Not the current college day . Just to be clear on that, but the days from 1973 - 1977.

  8. Wayne Pauli 2011.04.14

    Tony, are you in the Black Hills? I get out there quite often. I would like to buy you a beer.

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