Most years, this week’s column would urge you to stop by Darke County Center for the Arts’ booth in the Coliseum at the Great Darke County Fair. Usually, I would be urging you to check in there to see what DCCA has planned for the exciting upcoming season, and to get your tickets before the most popular events sell out, as well as to learn more about the organization and its culturally enriching mission and maybe even become a member contributing to the fulfillment of that mission.
At the fair booth, DCCA staff and volunteers would normally be handing out bookmarks advertising the Family Theatre Series of musicals based on popular and classic children’s books, eliciting interest and stimulating anticipation from kids, parents, and grandparents. In a normal year, you’d be invited to pick up a coupon offering a discount on tickets to Ghostwalk, DCCA’s popular Halloween season fundraiser, and you could fill out a survey helping DCCA plan for the future. However, as you undoubtedly know too well, this is not a normal year. Like much of the usual Fair week, DCCA’s participation in Darke County’s most popular event will regretfully not be happening this year, and no live DCCA presentations will be occurring during the remaining months of 2020.
Even if the fair had been allowed to proceed as usual, DCCA had opted out of its traditional presence at the fairgrounds, in addition to organization officials not feeling that audiences could safely gather to enjoy concerts in the foreseeable future, performing artists are canceling and/or rescheduling their tours due to the pandemic, resulting in chaotic scheduling conditions in part and leaving the organization’s plans for the immediate future were in a state of flux. Other than DCCA’s commitment to bringing people together through the arts, a commitment that cannot be fulfilled until an unknown future date, the organization does not have a solid known product to promote to fairgoers or the general public, presenting an unsolvable marketing dilemma as well as ongoing frustration and disappointment .
Even though DCCA will not have access to throngs of fairgoers, staff will be distributing a survey questionnaire soon. Discovering what its audience wants to see is an essential component of the survey, but not the only thing that DCCA needs to know. Officials look to the results of that poll to determine acceptable ticket prices as well, in spite of responses reflecting unrealistic hopes; (for example, you really cannot expect to see Reba perform at 600-seat St. Clair Memorial Hall for $15, although past responses have included that admittedly appealing expectation.)
Additionally, DCCA wants to discover how people find out about presentations and events, helping determine how to best market the organization’s carefully thought out programming. By asking how people become aware of the events they attend, DCCA hopes to be able to reach that component who say they were unaware of DCCA’s presence in the community, despite the organization’s 40-plus year history of value and excellence.
To provide motivation for filling out the questionnaire, each day of the fair one lucky respondent would win tickets to a DCCA show, and at week’s end a grand prize winner would be drawn to receive tickets for the entire season. Of course, that won’t happen this year. With nothing new to anticipate, nothing happening to celebrate, DCCA essentially has almost nothing to communicate to fairgoers except the organization is looking forward to the time when health and safety concerns due to COVID-19 no longer control our ability to congregate with others for the joy and inspiration that arts can deliver.