Three local organizations are coming together in an effort to market, expand and transform the Uniquely Union Festival into what one official called “the marquee event for Union County.”
The Union County Development Board, Union County Tourism Commission, and Union County Arts Council are working in cooperation with the Uniquely Union Festival Committee to stage this year’s festival and begin a transition process that will expand the festival in the coming years. Union County Development Board Executive Director Andrena Powell-Baker said the involvement of the development board, the tourism commission and the arts council began earlier this year during a meeting about the festival’s future.
“I was invited to a meeting in January of this year for Uniquely Union,” Powell-Baker said Monday. “The major agenda item was a discussion of the future of the festival and to gain support from the invitees. During the meeting I raised my hand and said we will help support the festival by marketing it.”
Jami Trammell, administrative assistant for the development board, is the board’s representative on the festival committee. She said Monday that the development board will use its database to help market the festival throughout South Carolina and beyond.
“We have an extensive database of contacts that we’ve worked three years to compile,” Trammell said. “It’s made up of local, state and regional contacts in addition to previous Union County residents. We will market to that database on a weekly basis. Our methodolgy is to contact people on a weekly basis through a number of media outlets including social media, the Uniquely Union website, billboards, brochures, and local media.”
This year’s Uniquely Union Festival will be held Sept. 7 and 8. As in the past, the festival will feature the annual barbecue cook-off which attracts teams from within and without Union County who come to compete and be judged in accordance with the rules of the South Carolina Barbeque Network in the categories of pork, chicken, ribs, and sauce. Plans also call for the festival to feature live music, vendors, exhibitions, and other competitions.
Powell-Baker said that while there are no plans to change this year’s fesitval, this year will be a transition period in which the festival committee, the development board, the tourism commission, and the arts council work together to create an expanded and diversified festival for 2013.
“What was loud and clear in January and in all the subsequent meetings is that the festival needs to change its focus and be more inclusive, to cast a wider net in the community, and basically to encourage more people to come,” Powell-Baker said. “In all of the meetings we’ve had everyone agreed the festival needs to be more diverse, more cultural, and to make everyone feel included, that there’s something there for them.”
Festival committee member Kevin Montgomery said the committee’s decision to involve the development board, the tourism commission, and the arts council was made in order to avail itself of new ideas that can help the festival grow.
“The festival had grown for several years and then in the past two years it had lost some steam,” Montgomery said. “We decided to bring in some people with ideas to help it continue to grow. We’re hoping that tourism, the development board, and the arts council can help us market to people we haven’t in the past. We’re hoping that this will help the festival grow.”
Union County Tourism Commission Director Will Boyles said the commission’s involvement in the effort to create a more diverse festival is due to the recognition of the fact that the festival can be an important community showcase.
“This will be our first year being involved and we want to offer any kind of guidance that we can,” Boyles said. “We think Uniquely Union can be the marquee event for Union County and we want to provide any assistance that we can bring to the table to make sure the event fulfills its potential. We want to give the people attending the chance to not only experience the festival but to show off our community at the same time.”
Union County Arts Council Coordinator Harold Senn said the arts council sees its efforts on behalf of the festival as an opportunity to increase its involvement in the community and to promote Union County.
“Our involvement came about when they said they wanted to get some organizations involved to broaden the range of the festival,” Senn said. “For our part, we are working with artists and crafts vendors to broaden the variety of offerings at the festival.
“It’s another way for the arts council to branch out and get more involved with the community,” he said. “It gives us a chance to promote Union by attracting large numbers of people and ensuring they enjoy themselves so that they in turn will tell everyone they know about the festival and about Union and help us promote it even more.”