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Festival drumming up Denton business

Profile image for By Karina Ramírez / Staff Writer
By Karina Ramírez / Staff Writer
A crowd of thousands cheers as the headlining Flaming Lips perform at North by 35 Conferette in Denton on March 13, 2010.
A crowd of thousands cheers as the headlining Flaming Lips perform at North by 35 Conferette in Denton on March 13, 2010.

Just days before 35 Conferette kicks off, organizers and city officials are reflecting on the impact the two-year-old music festival has had on Denton's bottom line - and looking forward to more of the same success this year.

To understand exactly how much the festival has impacted Denton culturally and economically, the city brought researchers on board to crunch the numbers - then make sense of them.

Last year, the city hired Michael Seman, a research associate with the University of North Texas Center for Economic Development and Research, to analyze the economic impact of the city's eight annual festivals, including North by 35 Conferette (now known as 35 Conferette).

In his report, Seman found the conferette, the Denton Arts & Jazz Festival and the North Texas State Fair and Rodeo together were responsible for generating $279,327 in sales tax revenue - more than 97 percent of the year's festival-related total. The Arts & Jazz Festival, around since the 1980s, generated $213,526 in sales tax revenue; the North Texas State Fair and Rodeo, around for more than 80 years, generated $42,766 in revenue; and the conferette, now in its third year, brought in $23,035 in revenue.

Bryan Langley, chief financial officer for Denton, said sales tax revenue contributes significantly to the city's tax base.

"Every dollar we receive is important, and certainly the economic activity is a substantial benefit to the opportunity," he said.

For a festival in its relative infancy, the fact that 35 Conferette has drawn big-name talent - with the Flaming Lips as last year's headliners and Big Boi as this year's - is considered quite an achievement.

Chris Flemmons, the festival's founder and creative director, said the festival depended on word-of-mouth in its first two years.

"We were trying to build something," he said. "We had no operating funds - we were flying on the seats of our pants."

Two years since its inception, 35 Conferette now depends on a group of investors who support the event.

"We got them this summer," Flemmons said, declining to provide further details. "They got us through a third year."

Seman said the volunteers who work at Denton's festivals are an asset to the city, bringing in needed talent to the area, and in many cases, keeping it here long after the festival ends.

"Festivals are a great way to train people," Seman said. "Working in a festival with a $2 million impact requires a high level of organization and planning. What we are finding is that people who are volunteers are really good at doing these jobs. They are trying to make connections with the community and are attractive candidates for companies that are already in Denton.

"The conferette is just another piece of the puzzle that will help the city of Denton brand itself."

He said as 35 Conferette grows, it will draw people to not only play here, but stay here, as well.

"When you have a music festival as well as the other festivals in Denton," he said, "you are positioning yourself as a place where people would want to live because it is an exciting and dynamic place."

KARINA RAMÍREZ can be reached at 940-566-6878. Her e-mail address is