Sights and sounds from 2018 Light City Baltimore. (Karl Merton Ferron, Batimore Sun video)
Both the attendance and the economic impact of Baltimore’s third Light City festival fell from last year, declines organizers attributed to bad weather and shortening the April event by a day, losing a Friday night in the process.
The 2018 Light City festival brought an estimated 442,500 people to the Inner Harbor during its eight-day run, and those nighttime visitors generated an economic impact of $33.5 million, according to figures released Wednesday by the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, which sponsors the annual celebration.
Those figures represent a decrease from the second festival, which attracted an estimated 470,000 nighttime visitors during its nine-day run in 2017, with an economic impact of $44.3 million.
“We also had a couple of nights of really bad weather,” said the festival director, Kathy Hornig, noting that, on Light City’s only Sunday night, for instance, the festival was only open for one hour.
On the positive side, Hornig noted record attendance on Light City’s opening night, estimated at 175,000. She said the festival was able to pay all its expenses, around $3 million, without dipping into the office’s reserves.
Hornig called Light City “an amazing success story for our city.”
Next year’s festival will return to nine days and include two Friday nights, she said. It will run from April 5-13 at the Inner Harbor, BOPA announced Wednesday.
Visitors to this year’s festival, which ran April 14-21 and featured numerous illuminated artworks installed along the Inner Harbor promenade, generated $19.72 million in direct spending by visitors and another $13.78 million in indirect impact, according to the economic impact study by Pennsylvania-based Forward Analytics. Local residents contributed an additional $7 million in spending.
Direct impact is money spent by visitors for hotels, restaurants, transportation and other purposes, said Candace Campbell, senior project manager with Forward Analytics. Indirect impact occurs when those dollars are used for other purposes in the community — for instance, when a restaurant uses the money to buy produce from a local supplier.
Of the attendees, more than 274,000 were from Baltimore or the surrounding area, according to the study. About 86,700 visitors, or 19.6 percent of the total, were from out of state, with the majority visiting from Washington, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey and New York.
Non-local visitors to Light City spent an average of $67 each while visiting the festival, according to the report.
Forward Analytics surveyed 552 visitors to Light City in compiling its findings. It also used secondary sources and information gleaned from government revenue, Campbell said.
Artists interested in having their work be part of Light City’s harborside Light Art Walk next year have until Aug. 27 to submit their proposals. Details can be found at lightcity.org.
Dates for Neighborhood Lights, which spreads Light City throughout Baltimore by commissioning installations in other neighborhoods, have yet to be announced. For 2018, 14 communities were selected for Neighborhood Lights, which ran April 6-8.