Our View: Pilgrimage funding dispute needs good faith effort from both sides




When a group of owners of historic Columbus homes formed a nonprofit to take over operations of the Columbus Spring Pilgrimage almost six months ago, we hoped for an amicable parting and a quick resolution to any disputes over funding that might come as a result of the change.


While the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation ultimately agreed to the request by the new group - The Preservation Society of Columbus - to conduct the event most associated with Pilgrimage (the Home and Garden Tours), the dispute over funding continues. At issue seems to be separating the funding of the tours from the other Pilgrimage events, including the kickoff party, half marathon, Catfish in the Alley.


Currently, most of the PSC homeowners have declined to participate in this year's home tour, the last to be operated by the CCHF, leaving a scaled-down version of the 80-year-old event.



That's a troubling sign that the split between the PSC and the CCHF, is nowhere close to being resolved.


The PSC wants to reinvent the Pilgrimage, adding its own programs which won't necessarily include some of the other non-home tour events. The PSC wants the full amount of funding that has been previously provided for the Pilgrimage, which would allow the group to keep or replace some of the events to focus the Pilgrimage more on a history of the city beyond a handful of homes. They say that includes the black community, which has been as much a part of the story of the city's history as any group.


To understand the dispute, it's important to note that for all intents and purposes, the CCHF is essentially a wing of the Columbus-Lowndes Convention & Visitors Bureau. The two groups share the same board of directors and the CVB has historically given large amounts of money to the CCHF.


The CVB provides the vast majority of the funds for Pilgrimage events through the revenue it receives from the county's 2-percent restaurant tax. Through its incestuous relationship with the CCHF, the CVB doesn't just provide funding for the Pilgrimage, it operates the Pilgrimage.


Now, it appears the CVB/CCHF is trying to retain some portion of the funding to operate and/or market those Pilgrimage programs it has not handed over to the PSC. Some of these events are of value and should be retained. From the CCHF's perspective, that means retaining control of them.


The other sticking point is advertising. The CVB notes that much of its advertising budget is spent to promote all tourist-related events, so it's difficult to calculate exactly how much of that advertising pie should be turned over to the PSC.


Clearly, there's much negotiating left to be done. Our concern is that the relationship between the PSC and the CCHF/CVB is too toxic to be productive.


What should be obvious is that having two entities working independently to operate Pilgrimage events is a recipe for waste and inconsistency.


Neither side can claim the high road until each has agreed to sit down and resolve these issues in good faith.


Without it, the Pilgrimage's future is in doubt.


To paraphrase Lincoln, a Pilgrimage divided against itself cannot stand.




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