Chamber wants new Mint Hill Madness boss

The Mint Hill Chamber of Commerce is ready to give up control of the annual Mint Hill Madness festival.

The 30-year-old festival has struggled to break even in recent years, including an $8,386 deficit in 2011. Chamber Treasurer Boyd Davis declined this week to provide financial information on the 2012 festival, saying it may be discussed during the Jan. 24 Mint Hill commissioners board meeting.

The organization – which receives grant money from the town – is hoping town commissioners will agree it’s time for a change. And chamber leaders have turned to local marketing professional and chamber member Nancy Bradley for help.

Bradley owns RelyLocal, a grassroots marketing campaign aimed to boost the success of local businesses. She’ll present her vision for the festival during the board’s Jan. 24 meeting.

Town Manager Brian Welch told commissioners Thursday, Jan. 10, he was “surprised” to hear the decision from the chamber. Welch met with Bradley last week to hear her thoughts on the event.

Mayor Ted Biggers said this week that’s not what the board wants either. The festival was started by local business leaders with the former Mint Hill Business Association, which morphed into the chamber.

“I think most of our residents look forward to (Mint Hill Madness) each year. It’s become such a tradition that we would hate to see it not take place,” Biggers said. “As a town, we could do various components pretty easily, like the parade. But it would be good if we can continue Madness similar to its present state.”

In her presentation to commissioners next week, Bradley said she’ll outline a new vision for the festival to include a larger volunteer component and ways local nonprofits can volunteer at the event and earn money, similar to the Matthews Alive! Festival. Bradley, a south Charlotte resident,  boasts 20 years of marketing experience, including coordinating marketing efforts for IKEA when they opened their Charlotte store in 2010.

“Our vision is to repurpose the event and put money back into community and support nonprofits and community organizations,” she said. “It’s not really anything to do with RelyLocal. We’re coming together with the town and using our expertise.”

As a business association, the chamber hasn’t been able to get funding from the area’s large businesses, Bradley said, because many can only give to certified nonprofits. So the first step, if commissioners agree, is to make the festival an official nonprofit, she said. If commissioners approve, Bradley said she would ask to be hired as the festival’s executive director.

“There are pools of money out there that the chamber was not able to get access to. (Nonprofit status) is key because you can get the major corporations because they need to spend that money. If commissioners approve, we’ll work with the chamber to make that happen. That way, the  chamber can work with the local businesses and support the local businesses.”

Biggers said he would be in favor of promoting more volunteerism through the festival, but doesn’t think of Madness as a “money-making venture.” But he’s not opposed to nonprofits being able to benefit from the event.

“I like including a lot of volunteers in Madness, not just for the cost savings, but it also keeps a lot of people active in the community and builds a sense of ownership,” he said. “I certainly want the expenses of Madness to be covered. I don’t want it to cost the town a lot of money.”

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