DALTON — The Dalton City Council voted 3-1 Monday night to approve an agreement with John Cowman, president of JLC AirShow Management in Rome, for a “Wings Over Dalton” air show May 9-10, 2020, at the Dalton Municipal Airport.
Council member Annalee Harlan cast the dissenting vote. Mayor Dennis Mock typically votes only in the event of a tie.
Harlan said she is concerned about the “internal” costs to the city of hosting the show, such as providing police and fire protection for the event. Estimates provided to the city’s Finance Committee were that the costs for fire and emergency medical services would be $11,250 and the costs for police protection would be $20,000.
“If they could obtain a corporate sponsor that could offset the costs to the city or numerous smaller sponsors that could cumulatively offset the costs, I would most likely be in support (of the agreement),” she said. “I support our airport, but I can’t support this event, not with these terms.”
Cowman said last week that if the council approved the agreement he would likely sign it on Tuesday.
“I can’t officially communicate with the performers until we have signed an agreement,” Cowman said.
JLC AirShow Management presents air shows across the nation, including in Rome for the past eight years. The Rome show is known as the Wings Over North Georgia show. The shows typically feature flying demonstration teams from the United States military or military demonstration parachute teams, as well as airplane races and musical performances.
“I support our airport, and I think this will help it,” said council member Denise Wood.
As part of the deal, Cowman cut his request for “seed money” for the show to $50,000 from $100,000. The city will provide that money from its share of the hotel/motel tax charged when people stay in local hotels and motels.
When Cowman pitched the idea to council members in August, they said they were reluctant to commit taxpayer dollars. But some council members said they are comfortable using the hotel/motel tax money.
“That money has to be used for things that will increase tourism and bring people into Dalton, and I think this will do that,” said council member Gary Crews.
Cowman said the show would draw people from an 80-mile radius around Dalton.
“I think we can draw in the 50,000 range,” he said. “It’s hard to gauge with the first show.”
Margaret Thigpen, executive director of the Dalton Convention & Visitors Bureau, said based on the past performance of the Rome shows the Dalton show could generate 1,200 hotel/motel night stays.
“Until we have a show here, we won’t know what the exact numbers will be and what the economic impact will be,” she said. “Each show and each city is unique.”