Jamestown 400 — The Pecuniary View

By November 9, 2007Culture and Entertainment

Jamestown.jpgThe Richmond Times-Dispatch reports on the spending and attendance that accompanied the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Jamestown’s founding.

JAMESTOWN — The organizers say 3.3 million people celebrated Jamestown’s 400th — and with the money the state spent, that nets out at $30 a head.

But if you exclude two big groups the organizers count — the 1.1 million who were at the Smithsonian’s annual Folklife Festival in Washington and the million students who clicked on a webcast last year — the cost was higher.

About $82 a head.

Virginia taxpayers and car owners spent about $98 million on the dozen Jamestown 2007 events and improvements at the state’s Jamestown Settlement park, including reproductions of the Godspeed and Discovery ships.

Including the Smithsonian and web figures is a bit of a stretch, really. Increased attendance otherwise?

  • 62 percent increase at the state-owned Jamestown Settlement living-history museum, which saw 609,000 visitors through September;
  • a 30 percent increase at the Yorktown Victory Center, where 203,230 visited so far this year;
  • a 45 percent increase at Historic Jamestowne, which includes Jamestown Island and the original James Fort archaeological site, where 401,000 people visited through last month.
  • Will they come back? Who knows.

    The NAM was a partner in these celebrations because Jamestown, with its glass blowers, also represented the start of commercial manufacturing in the United States. We appeciated the opportunity to spread the word, and commemorating and educating about this country’s roots in English common law and entrepreneurship are worthy goals.

    Still, it’s clear that mass historical tourism tied to centennials, etc. just don’t achieve the crowds that tourism and history promoters tout beforehand. Being an Oregonian who lived in North Dakota, we saw the build up and the reality of both the 150th anniversary of the Oregon Trail and the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark’s expeditions. Underwhelming.

    The Bruce Hornsby, Ricky Scaggs, Chaka Kahn concert was good, though.

    Join the discussion One Comment

    • JustADude says:

      I would wager they could have spent 1/5th as much and almost achieved the same results.

      I personally remember the 400th anniversary of St. Augustine, Fl back in 1965 and that was done on a comparative shoestring budget but the town was wall to wall tourists for the entire year.

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