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Chamber's tourism committee attempting to re-organize

Fresh off what is being called the biggest Sunnyside Cinco de Mayo Festival in local memory, the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee met Thursday afternoon to decide how to capitalize on that success.

Unfortunately, only two members of the committee were on hand to discuss the future of tourism in the community.

Chamber Executive Director Rado Harrington said the past week's event was exhausting but very profitable.

"We made money at the event," he said.

Excited about how well the three-day festival drew people to the community, Harrington said he is eager to draw more people to other events in the community.

"I want to see Sunnyside become more than a tourist stop, but a real destination," he told the tourism committee representatives.

"I think we need to rethink how we advertise Sunnyside. We need to take another look at how best to promote our tourism opportunities," said Harrington, who also is the executive director of the Sunnyside Economic Development Association.

He said he sees the Chamber and the economic development association roles as being complementary to one another.

"We can build on the successes in both areas," he said.

Harrington, who took on the duties of the Chamber directorship earlier this year, said making Sunnyside a destination will also aid in making it attractive to outside businesses wishing to relocate to the area.

Harrington said one of his first goals is to take another look at the Chamber's budget, which includes a segment devoted to the tourism committee expenses.

"We have some of the best kept secrets in the state and we need to let people know what they are," he said.

While long-time tourism committee members Karen Friend and Tami Silva, who were the sole attendees at Thursday's meeting, don't have a problem with Harrington's plan, they did voice concerns.

"We don't want to see the tourism committee's goals overlooked in your new vision," said Friend.

Under the auspices of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, the tourism committee doesn't have anything to do with the planning of community events, said Friend, who is the acting chair for the committee. "The planning of the events is left to other volunteer Chamber committees," she explained.

Friend sees the tourism committee's goal as promoting the entire community in other areas. She explained that the committee is annually allocated funds for advertising in state and regional tourism guides, including the Washington State Visitors Guide and the Yakima Valley Visitors Guide.

The tourism committee is also responsible for allocating funds for such events as the Sunnyside Lighted Farm Implement Parade in December, Sunshine Days, the 3-on 3 basketball tournament and the Fourth of July fireworks display, she added.

The tourism committee has its own budget, which is separate from the Chamber's budget, said Friend.

"I don't want to see us get lost in the mix," she said.

But Harrington said he feels there may be more money for tourism in the Chamber's budget.

"Right now we are preparing to revamp the budget to determine where money is actually being used," he explained.

Currently, the Chamber operates on a yearly budget of $126,740, of which $48,295 is allocated to tourism expenses. This year the tourism committee allocated $15,850 in advertising funds and $23,400 in event expenses.

"I don't have a problem with Harrington taking on the budget and direction of the tourism committee," said Silva.

"But I don't want to see commitments we have already made overlooked," she said.

"I just want people to realize we have spent a great deal of time making sure we have spent Chamber dollars efficiently," added Friend.

The tourism committee meets monthly on the second Thursday at the Chamber office at 2:30 p.m.

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