COLUMBUS, Ohio (COLUMBUS BUSINESS FIRST)–Just a few weeks ago, Covid-19 was once again inducing dread for companies such as Columbus-based Event Marketing Strategies, which works with large-scale public events including fairs and festivals.
But there is a renewed sense of optimism among event planners and related companies. Event Marketing Strategies CEO Jeff Milgrom told Columbus Business First that the recent drop in Covid-19 cases and the increase in vaccination requirements at entertainment venues has the event sector feeling much more optimistic.
“Unless something very strange happens, I think most events in Central Ohio – outdoor and indoor – are going to go ahead full bore in 2022 and 2023,” Milgrom said. “I feel pretty confident in saying there will be few, if any, cancellations of outdoor fairs and festivals in 2023.”
His company manages sponsorships for the Ohio State Fair, the Jazz and Ribs Fest and the Arnold Sports Festival. It also specializes in promoting corporate clients at large consumer events, including on-site event “experiential engagement” for companies including AEP, Nationwide and more.
That means when you see an AEP booth at a home and garden show or festival, Milgrom’s firm likely has placed it there.
“The No. 1 question I get asked from friends and associates is ‘Do you see a light at the end of the tunnel?’ ” he said. “For the last year and a half, I’ve said, ’It depends.’ In the last two or three weeks, we do see a bright light. I’m very encouraged moving into the fourth quarter and for sure about 2022 and 2023.”
Large-scale events in Columbus already have started to announce their intentions for next year: The Arnold Sports Festival plans a full-scale event with a large expo in March of 2022; The Memorial Tournament is selling an unlimited number of tickets for its 2022 event; and the Columbus Arts Festival also is planning a comeback.
Milgrom said event planners are becoming more confident as they talk to would-be attendees and see the success of in-person events so far this year. For example, the Illinois State Fair had record attendance this year, ranking only behind 2019.
“The ones that have taken place have been tremendously successful in terms of attendance,” he said. “People are going out and doing things. Lollapalooza (in Chicago) had hundreds of thousands of people.”
Milgrom said there is widespread Covid-19 fatigue as people begin to realize the virus isn’t going away, and “is going to be with us for a while.” That means learning how to live with it and getting back to regularly scheduled programming, he said.
“As more and more people get vaccinated and people get boosters … hopefully, this will just be like any other thing that pops up,” he said. “But I think at some point, even with the Delta variant, you see people are just ignoring it and are figuring, ‘I’m just tired of it.’ ”
The new vaccine, testing, and masking requirements at most venues, including in Columbus, have people feeling even more confident about attending live events, Milgrom said.
“A lot of people want to see a show, but they don’t want to sit in a facility with people who are unvaccinated and not wearing masks,” he said. “I think that will help bring people out. In the spring, I think you’ll see people going out in droves.”
Milgrom said his corporate clients are eager to connect with the public again.
Unsurprisingly, Covid-19 impacted his firm greatly. Milgrom said, “2020 and 2021 were the worst years we’ve ever had for annual revenue.”
“All of our current clients are waiting for things to open up, so they can get back out there,” he said. “We’re hoping to be out there in a big way.”
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