As the MoonPie dropped New Year’s Eve and 2013 gave way to 2014, the confection from Chattanooga as well as its electronic counterpart brought many to downtown Mobile.
Events Mobile, which organizes the New Year’s Eve event, is still putting together the total expenses, but say the celebration did cost less than the previous year’s show, which ran about $207,000.
Events Mobile Executive Director Carol Hunter said a few bills remained, but she was sure Baby New Year 2014 was a bit thinner than his sibling a year earlier.
“Everything is not in yet, but the cost is less than the previous year,” she said.
With the slight rain and cool weather, the attendance was down as well.
“We didn’t have the police do a crowd estimate, but I could just tell from last year that the attendance was less,” Hunter said. “I think part of that was because of the weather.”
The good news is most downtown hotels sold out or were near capacity. The Battle House and Holiday Inn had no vacancies. The Renaissance Riverview was a 95 percent capacity and the Hampton Inn had 90 percent capacity, Hunter said.
Hunter said Events Mobile decided not to pay for an economic impact study this year, but was still able to provide some numbers.
“From Dec. 28 to Jan. 2 the event had $1.6 million in publicity from TV stations,” she said. “That doesn’t include the live broadcasts of the event either. Also, that excludes the print publicity, which the L.A. Times wrote a nice piece about the MoonPie and it was also in O Magazine and Garden & Gun.”
Hunter also saw downtown restaurants and bars full of people, which means a boost for the local economy.
“When our restaurants and bars are full that means more staff, which does provide a boost to the economy. How big that boost is is for the economists to argue over,” she said. “The event certainly creates an opportunity for our local businesses that was not there before the MoonPie.”
There was some controversy surrounding the event though. After the Prancing Elites, an all-male dance ensemble, performed at the Semmes Christmas Parade and received negative attention from some, Events Mobile decided to uninvite the group from performing during the MoonPie Over Mobile parade. That decision also brought some negative feedback and even accusations from some local websites and social media that the new mayor was behind banning the Elites. Hunter said that was not the case.
“That decision was made by the Events Mobile committee,” Hunter said. “I never even talked to (Mayor Sandy Stimpson) about it. This was a decision by Events Mobile.”
Other questions about city officials receiving free hotel rooms or other extra perks had no basis in fact either, Hunter said. In past years there have been unsubstantiated claims that some city officials got free hotel rooms during the event.
“I can only speak to this year, but Events Mobile did not buy hotel rooms for anyone except the bands, which that was down from last year,” she said. “The only thing the city gets from the event is tickets to the sponsor party. That’s because they are a very large sponsor.”
Hunter pointed out that what the city does with its tickets is not up to them and like any other sponsor, the city can distribute them as they see fit. She said the total expense numbers from the MoonPie Over Mobile event should be available within a week.