Light City Baltimore adds $33.8 million to economy, study finds

Light City Baltimore contributed $33.8 million to the local economy during the festival's inaugural run in March and April, according to Forward Analytics, a Pennsylvania-based marketing research firm.

A study summary released Wednesday by the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts stated that the light festival directly increased local business volume by $19.9 million. The more than 400,000 attendees included 176,800 out-of-towners, who spent an average of $100 at the festival on bars, restaurants, hotels and the like — for a total of $17.8 million.


Nearly $1.7 million was generated from local and state taxes, according to the study.

It cost BOPA about $3.9 million to produce the seven-day festival, most of which came from private funds.


Kathy Hornig, the festivals director at the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts, said the numbers exceeded her expectations.

"We thought anything north of $30 million would be considered a success for a first-time event, so anything above that, we were thrilled about," said Hornig, who also organizes Artscape and the Baltimore Book Festival.

Hornig said she saw the crowds increase throughout the week, and she heard of restaurants running out of food items, but now, "beyond the stories and testimonials, we have the facts to back it up," she said.

Brooke Hall, the co-creator* of Light City, said though she was excited about the festival's economic impact, it was about more than the numbers. She emphasized the importance of the city's spirit and sense of community that week.

"It's hard to measure how you uplift a community, but I think we were able to do that," Hall said.

Hornig said the arts organization's hope is to expand the festival and its impact.

Next year's festival will extend over nine days and two weekends, from March 31 through April 8, and the Light City Innovation Conference will return for five days starting April 3, followed by a one-day youth conference.

On Wednesday, the organization released its call for entries for artists.


"We encourage everyone to start brainstorming and thinking about what can make Light City even cooler next year," Hornig said.

Hall said she is confident that next year will be a success.

"Light City is my baby. You'll always be connected to your baby," Hall said. "I'm excited to see it grow."

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How out-of-towners spent

Spending during Light City Baltimore, according to the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts:


$6.8 million for food and alcohol at bars and restaurants.

$4.4 million on hotels.

$1.8 million on retail goods.

$1.3 million on tourist attractions and entertainment.

*Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Brooke Hall was the creator of Light City Baltimore. She is the co-creator. The Sun regrets the error.