Attendance at the capital city’s New Year’s Eve bash last month topped previous years and the party apparently paid for itself without a bailout for the first time in its four years.
About 28,000 partiers from 27 states and four countries flooded Main and Gervais streets and the event’s VIP lounge, according to numbers released by event organizers one week after the Famously Hot New Year celebration.
The goal was to attract 27,000 visitors to the 2014 street party, up slightly from the 26,000 the year before, key organizers Sam Johnson and Barbara Rackes said last month.
Attendance has climbed steadily from some 20,000 who went to the inaugural event in 2011.
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The 2014 event also attracted $511,500 in public, private and in-kind contributions, according to the new figures provided Thursday by organizers. The party had a budget of $433,200, Johnson and Rackes said just before the recent bash.
Some bills have yet to be paid, but those will not exceed the income, Johnson said. “Our projection is that at the end of the day we’ll close out at $4,000 to $5,000 in the black,” he said.
Organizers said in the news release that this is the second time the party has finished in the black. But they did not supply data to support that assertion.
“When you have an event that brings together 28,000 people of all different races, genders, beliefs and backgrounds from all across the nation and the world, then you have something really special,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said in a news release. “That’s what this celebration is all about and we couldn’t be more proud to see it continue to grow and grow responsibly.”
The popular bash has a track record of overspending its budget. Its deficits have ranged from roughly $57,000 to $6,800 in 2013, according to figures previously released by organizers.
Thursday’s news release states the 2014 party also set a record in private donations. More than 30 major sponsors such as BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Aflac and Colonial Life contributing in excess of $281,000 in private dollars and in-kind support, organizers said.
Corporate contributions in the past have contributed to some shortfalls.
A new partnership with the regional transit authority allowed 650 riders to take advantage of park-and-ride bus services.
The 2013 New Year’s Eve party cost $473,079 and fell $6,868 short, Johnson said earlier this year. But that shortfall occurred after council twice increased public funding, adding $50,000 to the initial allocation.
The December 2012 event ran a deficit of $56,868, while the first party showed a profit of $367. But that negligible profit occurred because council approved $22,500 extra to cover more than anticipated security expenses to accommodate a larger than expected first-year crowd.
City Council changed the event’s financial status last summer. It gave organizers a coveted status known as line-item funding. That means the 2014 version received $130,000 directly from council. All of the money comes from meal taxes, the 2 percent patrons pay for prepared food and drinks sold in the city.
Line-item designation insulates New Year’s Eve party organizers from having to compete for public money or justify the event’s budget as well as its spending to a citizens’ committee. That council-appointed committee oversees about one-third of the city’s annual meal-tax spending and holds days of meetings to review applications that include attendance data, tax information and other financial records.
This year’s $130,000 is less than the $140,000 council allotted for the 2013 event: $100,000 from meal taxes and $40,000 from hotel taxes that year. Party organizers for the December 2013 event were among a rare few event sponsors to whom council extended meal taxes and hotel taxes. Most applicants receive money from one or the other source of city revenue.
Richland County Council contributed $100,000 in public money to the 2014 event, Rackes, the project manager, has said. Richland County Council has given financial support to the event previously.
The VIP lounge, which had been a source of past overspending, was turned over to a private catering company. At $125-per-ticket, all 800 were sold, Johnson said the day after the party.
Johnson, in addition to being the event co-chair since the outset, is an aide to Mayor Steve Benjamin, one of the originators of the popular party and its loudest cheerleader on council. Rackes is a Columbia businesswoman and a Benjamin supporter.