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City budgets $38,000 for Chamber activities

Following an inspirational presentation by Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce President Tom Gaulke, the Sunnyside City Council last night approved his request for $38,000 in funding for 2005.

Gaulke emphasized that he wants the tourism contract between the two entities to work for everyone concerned.

"We want to maximize these tourism dollars you're putting in our care," Gaulke told the City Council.

He spoke of the three major events that draw people to Sunnyside-the Cinco de Mayo festival, the 3-on-3 basketball tournament and the Country Christmas Lighted Farm Implement Parade-and said an effort will be made to make all three even more successful.

"We know we have to build on these.

"We want to put more heads in beds," Gaulke said, referring to attracting more over-night tourists to Sunnyside.

Gaulke said the local Chamber is also going to be aggressive in 2005 with developing a tourism identity for the downtown area. He said his intention, as the past president in 2005, will be to spearhead efforts to develop regularly scheduled events at Sunnyside's Centennial Square. He noted that community band concerts in the square's gazebo are on the drawing board, as are Mariachi performers.

Agreeing with Councilman Don Vlieger, Gaulke said one of the keys to drawing visitors to Centennial Square will be having regularly scheduled events.

Gaulke also said more planning needs to be done to schedule events that will benefit local motel and hotel owners...the types of events where tourists want to stay in the Lower Valley overnight.

Vlieger, as the owner of a local bed and breakfast, offered that his business seems to be the busiest during such events as Prosser's wine and food fair and the Valley's winery barrel tasting weekends.

Gaulke agreed that expanding on the wine theme is a natural for Sunnyside.

"Sunnyside needs to find a role in that," he said. He added that with more of Sunnyside's service groups and local committees taking on a larger role in the already established events, Chamber officials can dedicate more time on the types of events that will attract over-night visitors.

Gaulke said he believes Sunnyside can be successful in offering "more heads in beds" type events if an open line of dialogue can be maintained between the Chamber and the city, as well as with other groups. To help facilitate that type of dialogue, Gaulke said the Chamber wants to meet quarterly with the City Council to collect ideas and offer input on what is taking place in relationship to tourism.

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