A marketing company hired by Pilgrimage Festival reported that the event had a positive economic impact for the city of Franklin.

According to the economic impact study, the roughly 16,000 people who attended Pilgrimage spent about $3 million outside the festival during the event.

Hotels and dining accounted for most of that spending. The Franklin marketing firm Chandlerthinks estimated that more than 40% of attendees stayed overnight and nearly 40% ate at a local restaurant.

“We’ve intuitively known that the festival has a positive financial effect for the community and now we have hard data to substantiate this,” Pilgrimage Festival co-founder Brandt Wood said, according to a press release accompanying the report.

Chandlerthinks arrived at those numbers by conducting email surveys following the event, asking attendees how they spent their money. The company collected 2,700 responses and then used those answers to estimate spending for all attendees.

Joshua Drucker, a professor of urban planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago who has studied economic impact analyses, said that’s a good method to measure the amount of money people spent, but he usually teaches his students to take the process a bit further.

“What this company did was the first step,” Drucker said. 

The next steps would be measuring the indirect impacts of spending at Pilgrimage.

For example, a local hotel with extra guests might need to do more laundry that weekend. That’s a boon for local laundromats, but festival attendees wouldn’t pay the laundromats directly.

Additionally, the owners of the laundromat or the hotel would have made some extra profit and might spend that money somewhere in the community. Both of those indirect effects could have boosted the economic impact even higher.

However, the report doesn’t account for the money locals would have spent on a regular weekend. It’s likely that many local attendees would have spent money on dining, entertainment or shopping even if the festival didn’t happen.

"Did you go to a restaurant because you went to the festival? Would you have gone to the restaurant anyway? That's harder to say,” Drucker said. 

In 2014, Chandlerthinks also conducted a similar analysis of Main Street Festival in Franklin. That year Main Street Festival. That year Main Street Festival generated about $2.8 million in direct spending, just shy of Pilgrimage’s impact.

One big difference is that Main Street Festival attracts mostly regional residents, while more than 40% of Pilgrimage attendees travelled more than 100 miles to attend. Chandlerthinks reported that overnight guests spent $356 on average while day trippers spent an average of $45.

Chandlerthinks owner Steve Chandler said the chaos following the partial cancellation of the 2018 festival because of thunderstorms was one of the reasons that Pilgrimage wanted to calculate the economic value of the event.

“It was well documented that there were some inconveniences on the actual property from all the mud. Understandably so, local officials and residents had a lot of questions. Is it worth it?” he said. “I don't think it's naysayers. It's just people saying, What is the value?”

A representative for Pilgrimage said the one page report released in November is a partial report and that more detailed information will be available in December.

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