Because let's face it, their prosaic 1950s "roadside attraction" approach to getting people up here to the crown jewel of the Angeles Mountains Foothills just isn't working out for them these days. In many ways times have sadly passed on by. It is something that we as Sierra Madreans need to be very concerned about.
In the age of X-Box and iTunes the thought of driving 20 miles to sit in the lap of yet one more Santa Claus just isn't going to drive the imaginations of today's thrill-seeking (and yes, jaded) consumers. Outside of the world's largest flowering plant, there isn't a whole lot here going on for them. And then what happens to their deal if it rains? Which at this year's Wistaria Festival it did, and in near Biblical proportions. As we have seen from the colossal gourmet food truck debacle, they are desperately seeking something. And quite obviously not finding it.
So how does a small town with a quaint (though commercially at-risk) downtown shopping area in need of a little foot traffic go about bringing in today's hard to please consumers? They get creative. They use what they have to get what they need. For your edification, here are two examples of small towns that are experiencing some wild success with their events. Both having what it takes to make it in our times.
The first event is run by the Chamber of Commerce of the City of Nederlands, Colorado. Here is how their slice of marketing glory is laid out in a front page article from the New York Times:
Frozen Dead Guy Festival for Sale (the Man Himself Stays on Ice) - As a business opportunity, Nederland's frozen dead guy is pretty hot right now. Well, technically, of course, he's still frozen, packed in dry ice in a shed outside town, as he has been going on 20 years.
But the concept and the rights to the name Frozen Dead Guy Days, the gleefully ghoulish late-winter bacchanal of ice and death and beer -- that's up for grabs. The Nederland Area Chamber of Commerce here in the mountains northwest of Denver owns the registered trademark to all things Dead Guy and has put those rights up for sale.
"It has grown out of our grasp," said Blue Hessner, the chamber's president. Mr. Hessner said that the board would consider all offers, with no pre-set price, and that depending on the buyer, "it could become a little more commercial."
Celebrating the mortals remains of an 89-year-old Norwegian named Bredo Morstoel, whose body became stranded here in 1993, is already a big local economic engine. Upward of 20,000 people came this year over a three-day weekend in early March to mark its 10th year and its packed agenda -- the coffin races, the parade of hearses, the crowning of an Ice Queen and the not-to-be missed frozen salmon toss.
The story goes on to tell of how Mr. Morstoel's body was at one point under the control of a cryogenics company in the area that was keeping him on ice - so to speak - until the time came when scientific technology advanced to the point when he could be thawed, brought back to life and (hopefully) full health. When local government outlawed the practice of storing frozen bodies in this way, Mr. Morstoel began a new career. The rest is history.
With the rights to the "Frozen Dead Guy" brand currently up for sale, I personally can't think of a finer way to invest Sierra Madre's CRA funds than to snap it up. I mean, 20,000 people showed up in Nederland this year! That is a lot more than Frosty the Snowman ever brought to our sparsely populated shopping district.
The other example of marketing wizardry comes from Yahoo News. It details the ability of one small village in France to attract thousands to its streets through the use of its signature natural phenomenon. Which, coincidentally enough, involves a mountain.
French village seen at threat from Apocalypse sects - The tiny hamlet of Bugarach has drawn scrutiny from a government sect watchdog over droves of visitors who believe it is the only place in the world that will survive a 2012 Apocalypse.
A report by the watchdog, Milviludes, published on Wednesday, said the picturesque village near Carcassonne should be monitored in the run-up to December 21, 2012, when many believe the world will end according to ancient Mayan prophecy.
Surrounded in legend for centuries, Bugarach and its rocky outcrop, the Pic de Bugarach, have attracted an influx of New Age visitors in recent months, pushing up property prices but also raising the threat of financial scams and psychological manipulation, Miviludes said in its report.
And what is it about the Pic de Bugarach that has so many in such an apocalyptic tizzy?
Bugarach, with a population of just 200, has long been considered magical, partly due to what locals claim is an "upside-down mountain" where the top layers of rock are older than the lower ones.
The internet is awash with myths about the place -- that the mountain is surrounded by a magnetic force, that it is the site of a concealed alien base, or even that it contains an underground access to another world. And now many have seized on it as the ultimate refuge with Doomsday rapidly approaching.
Doesn't Sierra Madre have it's own "magic mountain?" I mean, somebody named the town after it, right? There must have been a good reason for that. The "rise in property values" thing alone should get our many fine Realty firms interested in promoting Sierra Madre as a possible refuge from next year's exciting events.
On further reflection, however, I am not completely certain that attempting to recreate the successes of other places here is the way we'd want to go. I mean, I personally find both of these occurrences fascinating, but are they really for us? Could they be marketed here as successfully as they are in the places they come from? Possibly not.
Next Saturday, and exclusively on the Sierra Madre Tattler, we will reveal what we believe would be a uniquely Sierra Madre event. One approaching the caliber of the two described above. It involves a sadly disused asset of international importance, one that intimately, and most uniquely, involves our little town alone.
Until then, I wish you the best of all possible weekends.
UUT Rate Hike Update (9:00 AM) - Something we discussed earlier this week on The Tattler (June 21), Bill Coburn is now claiming on his site that the City Council will "likely" raise the UUT rate to 12% at Tuesday evening's meeting. Bill says they are using the UUT Oversight Committee's 3 to 2 vote recommendation as the rationale for doing so. This despite assurances from Buchanan that it would not happen.