“if we end up next year with no July 4th celebration on the Esplanade, that is going to be a seismic hit on this city’s identity and our ability to get things done, It’s actually - it’ll be a civic embarrassment...Am I allowed to say that Jim? I’m not a columnist anymore. Should I be?” -Brian McGrory, Editor, Boston Globe on Boston Public Radio

 

James E. Rooney (@Boston_Rooney), President & CEO of the Boston Chamber of Commerce; Shirley Leung (@leung), business columnist of The Boston Globe; and Dusty Rhodes, President of Conventures (@Conventures), an organization which plans and markets large events such as First Night, Sail Boston, Boston Harborfest and many more joined Jim to discuss the future of the Fourth, and philanthropy for the arts in Boston.

James Rooney began the conversation by saying that Boston has relied on David Mugar for too long. Rooney described Mugar, “he’s a hero in Boston for bringing this celebration to the level he’s brought it.” Ronney also added, “we do have a history in Boston to let these things go to the last minute. We deal them in crisis. The tall ships a few years ago was an example of that.” He thinks there will be a solution to this.

Shirley Leung has written several articles on the possibility of losing events like this and others. She said to Jim that she believes companies will step up, and sponsor these events. Several companies did offer sizeable contributions, but they were not able to come up with a deal with Mugar in the timetable that was available. “It’s a complicated deal, a lot companies don’t do these one-day sponsorships anymore. They like it spread over days or months.” Leung brought up the New England Patriots as an example. Companies that are willing to contribute to sponsorships have an entire football season for promotion. A new business model is necessary for them.

Dusty Rhodes is an expert on saving a public event from extinction. She alone, with her company, put tens of thousands of dollars into Boston’s First Night celebration last year. She agrees that the sponsorships of these events need a new model. “Instead of one umbrella sponsor, one has to look at it in building blocks. You’re talking this strategy from this company and you’re making that sponsorship work another silo for this company here. So you’re using building blocks to get over the goal line as opposed to one umbrella guy.” Last year, her company did not have enough running time to use this model. For next year, this is the method they're using. First night like the Fourth of July, Rhodes said is “iconic to Boston.”

Jim mentioned that family-owned Fidelity contributes to many entities, but they contribute to large event in North Carolina. Shirley Leung added that Fidelity has a big presence in North Carolina. She also added that with a newer model, there may be a sponsor for concessions, or more merchandising for the Fourth of July event.

James Rooney told the panel that there are many companies in Boston that are contributing millions of dollars to many causes. He thinks the package needs to be reinvented to meet the potential sponsor's needs. In the case of philanthropic pursuits, Rooney says “ Companies do have strategic initiatives- be it early childhood education, or not for profits. So, all of these companies have focus areas that they get into. And they have to met on their terms.”

For more on the future of the Fourth of July celebration, and the panel’s insight, watch the video above.