Commissioners OK grant for steampunk fundraiser

PARKERSBURG – A $1,500 Innovative Grant for a May Steampunk-themed fundraiser, was approved Monday by the Wood County Commission.

Mark Lewis, chief executive officer and president of the Greater Parkersburg Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Cindy Sheppard of the bureau outlined the proposal for the event to raise money for breast and cervical cancer screening.

Shelly Dusic, health information specialist with the West Virginia Breast Cervical Cancer Screening Program, earlier told Wood County commissioners the event is scheduled for May 2-4 at the Blennerhassett Hotel and other venues in the valley. The event is being called “Vandalia – Saving the Mothers of Invention.”

Dusic asked the commissioners at the earlier meeting for financial help with the event. The commissioners said they did not have available funds and referred her to the visitors bureau.

Sheppard said the event hopes to cause from 75 to 100 people to stay in the area overnight.

The Innovative Grant fund is made up of 8.5 percent of the county hotel and motel occupancy taxes. It was created when the county raised the hotel occupancy tax in 2008 from 3 to 6 percent.

The grants are offered on a competitive basis. To qualify for the grant funding, the event or project has to draw visitors to the area to increase hotel stays. As part of the stipulations for the grant, event organizers are asked to provide documentation of increased numbers of visitors to the area as the result of their event.

Sheppard said the planned May fundraiser is a good cause, providing education and outreach for breast and cervical cancer research.

“We have met with the county administrator and looked at the total Innovative Grant budget for the year, what has been disbursed and what is encumbered. There are funds available for this, it would not be overbudget,” Lewis said. “It’s a unique event, we believe it has good potential here.”

An intent of the grant fund is to help things get off the ground, Commissioner Blair Couch said. Organizers are required to report to the commission after the event, he said.

“The idea is to get heads in beds and bring people in to the area to use our restaurants and businesses,” Couch said.

“The key is they will be required to report at the end so we can see what they actually did,” he said.

Sheppard said the grant funds would be used to advertise the event.

Steampunk is a relatively new genre of Victorian Era-Industrial Revolution meets pop culture-science fiction.

Dusic told the commissioners earlier the event will be held at multiple venues in the valley, but headquartered at the Blennerhassett Hotel. It will include a parade, concerts, a Casino night, a steampunk ball, and children’s activities. Some of the events require a ticket, some will be free.

The West Virginia Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program and Bonnie’s Bus are statewide programs that provide patient services for uninsured and underinsured West Virginia women.