Jazz with a higher purpose
We share the story of the award winning Ocean City Jazz Festival to inspire readers who harbor a dream and haven’t yet realized it. We also share it as part of Black History Month to highlight Black philanthropy and the strength and assets of Black communities across the country.
This fourth of July weekend will be the 10th anniversary of the Ocean City Jazz Festival and it promises to be the best yet. The concert has grown from the porch of the Ocean City Community Center on the North Carolina shore to a four-day festival on the beach with nationally recognized performers, wine tastings, yoga, church services, and a gospel brunch.
Over the past three years the festival has grown from a one day event with 2 performing artists and 150 people attending to four days with 10 artists attracting over 600 per day. The number of sponsors has increased 20% and revenues from sponsors have increased by 50%.
Carla and Craig Torrey are the driving force behind this event. This husband and wife team – with a band of volunteers – have steadily grown the festival with consistency, partnerships, and a willingness to invest time in changing how they position the event before sponsors, how they communicate their value, and who they approach.
Bottom line, the festival recruits sponsors with a business case. They document their economic impact; provide attendance numbers and demographics including breakouts by gender, ethnicity, income, past festival attendance, educational attainment, age, household ownership and household structure. They have developed and nurtured extensive media partnerships that allow them to offer event sponsors comprehensive exposure via print, radio, television, digital, outdoors, and social media. They communicate the business value of festival sponsorship so well that they were selected as the winner of “Best Sponsorship Packet” at the Showfest Excellence Awards beating out 169 other North Carolina festivals.
This year is the festival’s 10th anniversary and the 70th anniversary of this historic African American community: Ocean City is the first place on the North Carolina shore where Blacks could purchase beachfront property.
This history was made 15 years before the federal Civil Rights Act mandated change, and Carla’s father was part of it. He was a contractor who built his home and went on to build many of the homes within the community. Her experience spending summers in Ocean City and her love for her father drew Carla and Craig to invest their time, talent, treasures, and resources into the Jazz Festival.
“My dad would tell the story of how he paid $500 for the lot and how it took him ten years to pay it off. We often sit on the porch and think about how that $500 investment came a long way,” Carla tells.
Today the Torreys and the Ocean City Beach Citizen’s Council are making another investment: They are ensuring that history is told and that resources will be available to help Black families retain their community despite the pressures of developers, an aging homeowner population, and the struggle to pay taxes.
Copyright 2019 – Mel and Pearl Shaw
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