Although council considered selecting other groups to organize Houston’s annual Light Up event this year, council ended up selecting the Houston and District Chamber of Commerce last week.
The chamber notified the municipality earlier this year that it would be withdrawing as the organizer of the annual event –which involves decorating Steelhead Park with holiday lighting– even though the chamber had been organizing this event for the past 27 years.
According to a district staff report, the chamber cited several reasons for choosing to withdraw, including the amount of staff time and costs of running the event.
Part of the Light Up costs are fundraisers for the volunteer user groups that assist with the event’s setup. The lights and all associated materials are owned by the District of Houston.
After receiving the chamber’s notice, council requested that district staff investigate solutions to this issue.
Staff recommended council to continue with the existing service provision model, as the chamber understands the work required to set up the event. According to district staff, the chamber would be able to begin preparing for the event sooner than the alternative organizers.
The district considered approaching other local groups including the Houston Minor Hockey Association, Houston Ringette, Houston Curling Club, Figure Skating Club, Houston Christian School, Houston Christian Youth Hockey Program, and the Mixed Old Timers League.
Although organizing the event would provide a fundraising opportunity for these user groups, district staff says the risk of selecting one of these groups is that they are not regularly involved with the Light Up event.
A third but more costly option considered by council was to have district staff organize the event.
“It should be noted that this option is the most costly of the three options available, and would require a substantial increase to the budget for this event,” stated Gerald Pinchbeck, Houston’s chief administrative officer, in a district staff report. “The cost of staff wages alone would exhaust the existing budget.”
“Further, organizing this event may require the number of full-time equivalent staff to be increased slightly to account for the workload,” he added.
After being approached by district staff to discuss the issue, the chamber indicated that they would be willing to reassume the responsibility.
According to the district, the annual Light Up event is a major factor of the tourism service, and assists in making Houston stand out from other communities.