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Forsyth to co-sponsor Farm Progress vendor appreciation dinner

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Teri Hammel, executive director of the Decatur Convention and Visitors Bureau, felt something like a boomerang as she made a second consecutive presentation to trustees at the June 1 board meeting. This visit, coming on the heels of her May 18 appearance before the board to discuss upcoming sporting events, saw Hammel talking about this year’s Farm Progress Show slated for Progress City at Richland Community College in September.

The purpose of her visit was to make a hotel/motel tax fund request, with the money to be used specifically to help pay for the Farm Progress Show’s vendor dinner. If approved, the Village of Forsyth would become a co-sponsor of the dinner with the City of Decatur.

“This is the first time in 18 years I’ve ever had to come before you to ask for money for Farm Progress,” Hammel said almost apologetically.

But, she said, the absence of funding from the state of Illinois and the uncertainty of whether that funding will ever return really gave her no choice but to ask.

The current contract, which calls for Decatur to host in odd-numbered years, will go through 2019, Hammel said. That means there will be shows here in 2015, 2017 and 2019. Boone, Iowa, hosts in even-numbered years. Hammel’s request to trustees was for a commitment of $10,000 for each of those years.

Hammel emphasized that there could be no show if not for the vendors, and she noted that vendors don’t just show up and stay in local hotels for the three days of the event.

“We don’t have a show without vendors,” Hammel said. “Plus, they come early to set up and stay late to tear down.

“The economic impact isn’t just for three days, it’s felt months out. For example, there are rooms rented now for people building Farm Progress now.”

The Farm Progress Show, which has been around since 1953, has a quality pedigree to be sure. Hammel called it the “Detroit Auto Show of farming.” She added that the Decatur venue has increased in size by 11 blocks and 111 vendors, and it continues to grow and is completely full, she said. She said that visitors come from around the world to attend.

In a video that Hammel played, Matt Jungmann, National Events Manager at Farm Progress Companies, described the event as the No. 1 (in terms of international attendance) farm show in America.

“It is the biggest event in our city,” Hammel said.

Mike Mandrell, who is on the DACVB board, told trustees that it’s projected there will be a 32 percent increase in hotel stays for this year’s show, and he said, sponsoring the dinner “would show appreciation for the vendors.”

Trustee Jim Peck spoke in support of Hammel’s request.

“To me, this is perfect for spending hotel/motel tax dollars,” Peck said. “And, it’s not just for Farm Progress. This is a year-round partnership working with you (Hammel and the DACVB) to promote the area …”

Trustee Steve Hubbard, an accountant in his full-time job, noted that the money would be recouped pretty easily.

“If projections are correct, we should get back $9,600 in hotel stays – just doing some quick math,” Hubbard said. “And, that’s just hotel stays.”

Trustee Dave Wendt agreed with other trustees in supporting the request and said it was “a perfect example of what we should be doing with hotel/motel funds.”

Trustee Kerstin Trachtenberg asked if the current hotel/motel tax rate is adequate given the village’s three-year commitment to the Decatur-Forsyth Classic and the possible three-year pledge to Farm Progress.

“You’re right, Kerstin,” Peck said. “Bloomington, Champaign, Springfield are all at 6 percent, and we’re at 3 percent.”
Trustee Wendt made the motion to approve the request, which was seconded by Trustee Bob Gruenewald. All votes were Yea; the request was approved. 

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