Ted Cummings speaks at a Chamber Open House about Jazz in the Pines networking opportunities. Photo by Marshall Smith

The Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) held its meeting at Town Hall in order to accommodate speakers from next year’s festivals and a hoped-for large audience of local merchants. The Chamber offered this networking opportunity to all local merchants, not just its members, hoping to afford them information about 2012 local festivals. Attendees would learn from festival presenters how they could use the festivals, and the many off-Hill tourists they bring, to increase their sales.

Unfortunately, other than the Chamber board, no local merchants attended the Monday, Dec. 19 open house.

“We may try again in February,” said Chamber President Nick Todd expressing his disappointment about the lack of attendance. But that will not help the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema (IIFC). Its mid-January event is the first of many festivals during 2012.

IIFC Director Stephen Savage and Chairman Phil Calderone were philosophical about absent merchants. “We weren’t asking anything from you [the Chamber board] or local merchants,” he said. “It’s about how we can help you.”

Having attended film festivals all over the world, Savage recounted there is not a festival where local merchants don’t have people passing out flyers to patrons waiting in line to get into films.

“Twenty percent off breakfast, 50 percent off clothing; you’re loaded down,” he noted. But with no merchants there to hear him, he offered, “I’m willing to go door to door to find out how we can help them.”

“I want to find a way to get businesses more involved,” said Calderone. “We’ll have a merchant table at the Quiet Creek Living Room Gallery for them to display material. We have people coming from all over who did not know that Idyllwild existed, and it’s such an opportunity for merchants and restaurants to increase their business. I really am open to new ideas [of how to involve the town, merchants and restaurants.]”

Other speakers echoed similar comments. Gary Kusher, speaking for the Art Alliance of Idyllwild, Ted Cummings for Jazz in the Pines, and Scott Fisher for the Lemon Lily Festival all expressed interest in integrating local commerce with the special events that occur every year.

Cummings cited a survey he did several years ago of online patrons at Jazz in the Pines, which yearly draws about 2,000 people over its two days. “Fifty percent had never seen [or frequented] the town and over 25 percent thought that Idyllwild ended at Highway 243 and Saunders Meadow Road.” Cummings noted that, given last year’s successful in-town post festival jazz concert, Jazz in the Pines would discontinue its Saturday night Jazz and Jambalaya event. “We’re doing that so that the jazz fest in town can replace the event at Nelson Hall [dining hall on Idyllwild Arts campus],” he said.

Cummings understood the possibilities offered local merchants by the many Idyllwild festivals. “We’ll bring them up from off the Hill and into town, but it is up to the merchants to figure out how to get them to spend their money.”

Each speaker discussed their festival, its timing, opportunities for networking and cross-marketing and, in the case of Jazz in the Pines, even providing transportation from the festival site to town, after festival closing hours, for festival patrons to enjoy Idyllwild’s businesses and ambiance. But there were no merchants there to hear.

In other business, Susie Burkle, Idyllwild Vacation Rentals, was appointed as a new director to fill the recent vacancy.