Cultural Quarterly Magazine Online
On the Arts_08-2012

Why Signature Events?
by Dan Fenton, Associate Partner
Strategic Advisory Group

Signature Events

Nearly 100 business, civic and government leaders in the hospitality and arts communities have spent the last few months weighing the many benefits and opportunities in creating a signature event for Broward County.

The key question is why?

Why would many talented leaders in our community have a strong interest in this as part of Broward County’s future?

The answer is clear. A well-planned, highly creative signature event can further define what makes Broward great for our community and equally as important, to the rest of the world. The opportunity to showcase the wonderful physical attributes of our County with the combination of talent and perspectives is certainly a daunting task, but will pave the way for economic growth as well as a stronger community for years to come.

What has Art Basel done for Miami-Dade or South by Southwest for Austin, Texas? What has the Indianapolis 500 done to create the Indianapolis of today? Would we even know where Park City Utah was if it wasn’t for the Sundance Film Festival?

These signature events have one thing in common. They all started with a vision and a committed community. They started in a similar fashion to the conversations and creative that has recently taken place in Broward County. The plans were ambitious and the risk was real but the reward has put these destinations on the proverbial map.

While signature events can take on many forms and celebrate activities from arts to sports as well as unique physical attractions, the key to a signature event’s success is not just how many people come during the designated time of year, but how it increases interest in a destination year around.

Imagine when a group of business men in 1872 invented a display that would be paraded down the streets of New Orleans and introduced the purple, green, and gold colors. New Orleans without Mardi Gras?

 "Venice Biennale, arguably the premier contemporary art exhibition,
helps define the great city of Venice."

There are many commonalities of those signature events that have had success.  Probably the most important component to long-term success is a committed public and private sector and the willingness expressed to work together to use technology to share information and create cultural tourism packages.
Broward County is fortunate to have an engaged business community including leaders in the hotel industry. Over the past few months these leaders have expressed a strong interest in supporting this effort as an economic generator. The business leaders can’t do it by themselves and have formed an alliance with the creative community in Broward. This combination provides a foundation that will be the backbone of a successful signature event.

But let’s be clear. There is no signature event without public sector leaders who want to put Broward County on the international map while instilling deep community pride in residing in this great area. The recent discussions have surfaced municipal and County elected and appointed officials who have committed to being catalysts and additional thought leadership as Broward County begins this historic journey.

The team is not complete with the business and creative community working in partnership with our local and County elected officials. The missing member of the team is you. A signature event without broad-based community support and involvement will be challenged to succeed. This is especially important for a concept that showcases our talent as its main feature. If the future of Broward County is to take our talent and couple it with world-class creativity to tell the world to come and see for themselves, we need you to be involved.

Of course one cannot discount the importance of “the idea.” In every successful signature event the “idea” began with a broader concept.  For example, Domenico Varagnolo in 1928 said it was time to organize warehouses of world-class art. That vision was the catalyst to the Venice Biennale, arguably the premier contemporary art exhibition that does help define the great city of Venice. 

More than 20 years ago community leaders in Austin, Texas believed that local musicians were being isolated from the rest of the world by being in the middle of Texas. They created the first South by Southwest with a few cooperative club owners and now it is a premier internationally-known music and film festival.

So what can we do?  Broward County is a place that is proud of the unique makeup of our community and we have special talent. We have spectacular physical features, many of which tie to water, but not the way others may think. Broward County also has local minds that value and nurture the creative process in what they do. What if you took all of that and coupled it with a world-class creative mind every year and told our story to the rest of the world?

The world would stop, take notice, come visit, move their business, become our neighbors and finally understand what we all know.

Let’s take this journey together!

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