State official says money will be available for outdoor dramas

March 08, 2004|GARY MOYERS

Local dramas that depend on state grant money are not shut out of the distribution system yet.

Brian Mefford, executive policy director for the Commerce Cabinet, said the money will be available, but application and distribution methods are changing.

"There have been lots of misunderstandings about this plan," he said. "We're not on a hunt here to run the important parts of Kentucky tourism out of business. My mom's family is from Harrodsburg, and I attended the drama many times as a youngster.

"We have not said the groups will not get the money," he said. "We're putting it under the auspices of the nine regional tourism agencies, and groups that want funding will have to apply through them."


Chuck Dedman, chairman of the board of Fort Harrod Drama, which produces The Legend of Daniel Boone in Harrodsburg each summer, said he hopes the process continues to make state money available.

"The drama was started to help bolster the state's tourism trade, and we've done just that," said Dedman. "The drama and the park have been great partners in that respect. We've always felt we've been pretty good stewards of the money we're entrusted with."

Mefford was quoted in an Associated Press article Friday as saying his agency wants more oversight and accountability, and that grants will be allocated as matching funds to attractions of highest priority to regional tourism boards.

"We want to serve the best intents of the dramas and the taxpayers," said Mefford. "But we plan to support the dramas and productions in every way we can. (Commerce) Secretary (Jim) Host wants to coordinate all the marketing efforts to benefit the entire state, to have them work to complement each other, and we feel the best way to do this is to have all the recipients apply to the regional offices. We'd like to see matching funds put up to aid in the marketing effort, but that's not finalized yet."

Eben Hensen, owner of Pioneer Playhouse in Danville, said the state has much to lose if it fails to support outdoor drama programs.

"The dramas are responsible for drawing so much tourism money into our state that the state cannot afford to let them go under," he said. "I would hope they see this before it's too late. The investment made by the state is returned by the dramas many times over. Nowhere else in the country will you find access to this many outdoor dramas as you do in a 60-mile radius of Danville."

Hensen said Pioneer Playhouse would not fold if it fails to receive state grant money.

"We are supported primarily by local patrons," he said. "Our budget is lean, and without grant money we could not grow, but we will survive. Over the past six years our attendance has grown more than 100 percent, so we are a definite draw for tourism in this area."

But Dedman has said in the past that without the $41,000 annual grant money from the state, the Legend would fold. He's hoping that doesn't happen.

"We're going to have to find out what's required of us and deal with it," said Dedman. "We just need to understand this new process and see what we have to do to adhere to it."

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