SHOPPING: Crazy Days pushing ahead without BDA
BEMIDJI -- The tradition of Crazy Days will continue next weekend in downtown Bemidji, but the annual event does come with a changing of the guard.
Last August, the Bemidji Downtown Alliance made the decision to no longer endorse and sponsor the event because of a decline in participation from member businesses the past several years.
"What we needed to do was start looking at how marketing had been done in the past. As we looked at it, we were finding that members of the BDA weren't being served by the Crazy Days marketing," BDA President Colleen Bakken said. "We were using our advertising dollars toward an event that wasn't serving our members' needs."
According to Bakken, the organization saw a decrease in the event overall. With an annual budget of about $10,000, Bakken said the organization decided to move its roughly $1,500 of Crazy Days funding to other resources.
Along with spending dollars on marketing, Bakken said the organization also had the responsibilities of ensuring street closures and providing liability insurance to the event.
"If you're going to advertise an event, you're going to pour some money into that," Bakken said.
While the BDA will no longer sponsor the event, though, Crazy Days will live on in 2016 thanks to a group of downtown Bemidji business owners.
"The tradition has been to have Crazy Days on the first Saturday of August. That's what it's going to be on this year and that's when it's going to be in the future," said Bemidji Woolen Mills owner Bill Batchelder, one of the retailers carrying on the event. "It's going to start at 7 a.m. and there's about 21 businesses downtown participating in it."
For Batchelder, Crazy Days is a critical event kicking off the back-to-school shopping for downtown retailers.
"Historically, it's always been a fun and profitable day," Batchelder said. "It's a wonderful family event and it's in the top five for the busiest retail days in the annual cycle for downtown businesses."
While the group of merchants will continue Crazy Days, Batchelder said the 2016 version will be somewhat different. For example, the streets this year won't be closed. Instead, outdoor shopping will mainly take place on the sidewalk.
Batchelder, who said there's no formal committee setting up Crazy Days this year, hopes to have another sponsor organization come in for future events and once again have the streets closed.
A new direction for the BDA
Bakken said the BDA, meanwhile, will focus on what she calls community event partnerships.
"Marketing wise, we're looking at how we can serve the members the best. For example, the BDA will have Dragon Fever during the Dragon Boat Festival," Bakken said. "That way the BDA can partner with that event and do something at the same time that's similar."
While the organization no longer sponsors Crazy Days, though, Bakken said the group still encourages participation.
"In no way is the BDA opposed to Crazy Days happening," Bakken said. "I've talked to the retailers and I've said to them if that's an event you're going to put money into, that's great, by all means."