The advisory panel unanimously recommended approval of Brevard County tourism “major event grants” for the Cocoa Beach Air Show in April and the Thunder on Cocoa Beach Powerboat Race in May.
But panel members say they are not happy with the bids submitted by event organizers and have advised organizers need to do better if they want another grant next year.
“I was very disappointed with the quality of the entries,” said Culture Committee member David Schilhammer. “I kept thinking, ‘Where’s the beef?’ It was just disappointing all around.”
Criticism from panel members included the brevity and lack of thoroughness and data in the written submissions.
The Cocoa Beach Air Show, which will be headlined by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, has been recommended for a Space Coast Tourism Authority major event grant totaling $87,852.20. Thunder on Cocoa Beach was recommended for a grant totaling $53,795.80.
According to the grant guidelines, grant amounts are 20% of the total operating costs of each of these activities.
The recommendations were unanimously approved on Thursday by the Tourism Development Council’s Culture Committee. They still have to be approved by the Tourism Development Board itself at its Nov. 16 meeting and by the Brevard County Commission in December.
Funding for the grants comes from Brevard County’s 5% tourism development tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals.
Although members of the Culture Committee were enthusiastic about the events and their positive impact on local tourism, they were less than enthusiastic about the quality of applications and the incompleteness of some of the responses.
Culture Committee Chair Andrea Young said a one- or two-sentence answer to the question doesn’t help.
Other committee members said they believed many of the applicants for the smaller tourism cultural grants — which were filled by representatives of local arts and cultural organizations — did a better job of applying for the grants than promoters of air shows and motorboat races. Smaller cultural grants previously approved were $10,000 to $20,000 apiece.
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“I felt that smaller organizations should be providing a lot more information and data,” said Culture Committee member Aaron Collins. “I feel like in the future we should expect a little more information and diligence in these (major event) grant applications.”
The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds — one of the world’s most famous air force demonstration teams — will be the featured performers at the Cocoa Beach Air Show.
The Thunderbirds will fly their F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets over the ocean for a show scheduled for April 14th and 15th.
They were last in Brevard for the 2021 Cocoa Beach Air Show, which was held on April 17 and 18.
Brian Lilly, chairman of the National Air, Sea and Space Foundation, the promoter of the Cocoa Beach air show, said he expects additional performers for the show to be announced in December in conjunction with the International Air Show Council Convention.
In September, representatives of the National Air, Sea and Space Foundation made an in-person presentation to the Culture Committee, seeking a grant for major events, and submitted a written grant application.
So did Space Coast Super Boats LLC, which is the promoter of the Thunder on Cocoa Beach powerboat races and related events scheduled for May 18-21.
Motorboat racing will take place on Sunday, May 21. The route will run from Cocoa Beach Pier to Minuteman Road.
This will be the 13th such event held in Cocoa Beach in the last 14 years. There were no races in 2020 due to COVID-19.
Additionally, Juice ‘N Java in downtown Cocoa Beach will host a launch party on May 18; a block party in downtown Cocoa Beach and a VIP party at Coconuts on the Beach on May 19; and a Racers Village “meet, greet and mingle” reception with racers in Port Canaveral on May 20. Plans are also being made for a concert during the race weekend.
Lilly told members of the Culture Committee after their vote and criticism of his organization’s application that “we hear you loud and clear” about strengthening his written submission in the future.
But Lilly added that he believed committee members were already well aware of the “more established” large events like his, compared to some of the smaller organizations that apply for cultural grants.
This includes the airshow’s reputation and its positive impact on hotel room rentals.
“You know us,” said Lily.
But Culture Committee member Julieta Misconi responded that no grant applicant “should assume that we know enough about their show or their program that we will judge them solely on the basis of their reputation and history.”
Despite their criticism, eight of the nine committee members gave both the air show and powerboat races scores of 80 or higher for their entries.
Young was the exception, giving the air show a 59 and the powerboat race a 17.
“I’m a wicked witch, and I don’t want to be one,” Young said during the committee meeting.
“We can’t judge from experience,” Young said.
Although both promoters “put on fantastic shows,” Young said. “We have to judge by what we have here” in the applications.
Young was absent from the Sept. 15 meeting of the Culture Committee, where the applicants made their personal presentations.
Some other committee members said those presentations, along with written responses from air show and powerboat racing promoters to follow-up questions submitted by committee members, helped boost the applicants’ scores.
“The presentations were great,” said Culture Committee member Bonnie King, adding that it’s important to keep these events on the Space Coast.
“The hotels love it. The hotels support it,” King said. “I’m just thrilled that we have both.”
Culture Committee Vice Chair Jim Plattman agreed, saying, “It would be a disservice to the county” if the events didn’t happen.
Collins noted that “both of these events are incredible events, but you have to do better with the programs.”
The committee must “maintain the integrity of this program,” said Culture Committee member Kim Agee.
Members of the Culture Committee plan to review the grant application process early next year, in preparation for the next major event grant cycle.
Thunder on Cocoa Beach received a major event grant of $73,000 for its 2022 event in May.
There was no air show in Cocoa Beach last year.
But the Space Coast International Air Show at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville was awarded a $73,000 grant for the 2022 show, held May 21 and 22. The U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team headlined the show, which the National Air, Sea and Space Foundation partnered with Titusville-based Valiant Air Command to produce.