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Posted: Aug. 30, 2012 at 5:30 a.m.
GRAND RAPIDS – "Gilda's LaughFest," a 10-day festival celebrating laughter for the health of it, announced it will hold its third year of events March 7 through 17, 2013. Details of the 2013 events, schedule and talent lineup will be released later this fall.
"The minute we finished our second year, the community and sponsors were asking for the dates for next year," said Leann Arkema, president and CEO of "LaughFest" and Gilda's Club Grand Rapids. "We had tremendous support for the festival this year, great turnout, great support from sponsors and the community. And it showed in the numbers. The festival exceeded its goals and the planning is well on its way for a third year of laughter."
In 2012, the festival proceeds were approximately $211,000, bringing the two-year income stream from the festival and the signature dinner events to a grand total of $541,000. All dollars raised support the free cancer, grief and emotional health programs offered through Gilda's Club Grand Rapids.
"We are thrilled with the results of this year's financial outcome. Ticket sales revenues were up 25 percent. We are ahead of where we thought we might be in only our second year," added Arkema.
Studies during and after the festival that were headed up by Paul Isely, chair of economics, and Jennifer Pope, associate professor of marketing, at Grand Valley State University's Seidman College of Business, demonstrated that "LaughFest" made a positive impact on the region's economy as well.
Isley said, "Working with teams of students, we found that 40 percent of the surveyed respondents indicated they came to Grand Rapids primarily for "LaughFest." And, once they were here, many spent money on meals, lodging and more. When we apply the survey results to the total number of visitors, we have an estimated $2 million in direct and indirect spending in Grand Rapids related to 'LaughFest.'"
"In addition to the economic impact of "LaughFest," we were equally excited to find 85 percent of those surveyed were aware that 'LaughFest' was developed, in part, to highlight the importance of the role of laughter in emotional health," said Wendy Wigger, vice president of community relations for Gilda's Club Grand Rapids. "One of our festival objectives is to increase the awareness and dialogue about the important role emotional health plays in our lives."
Wigger added, "We were also pleased the study reflected that the event reached individuals of all ages and socioeconomic levels. Our goal was to provide a festival that would provide something for everyone. We believe that the study results show we achieved that goal."
An estimated 56,294 people attended the second year of "LaughFest," which included 323 events, 217 of which were free and 106 were ticketed. More than 200 hundred headliners and artists participated in the ticketed events and a total of 727 people from 15 states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas) and Canada performed at the free showcases on one of the 62 festival stages in Grand Rapids, Lowell and Holland. More than 40,524 tickets were sold to the various events and visitors who came from 25 states and Canada.
Visit www.laughfestgr.org or call 616-735-HAHA (4242) to learn more about "Gilda's LaughFest."
About Gilda's Club Grand Rapids
Gilda's Club Grand Rapids is a free cancer and grief support community of children, adults, families and friends. Its comprehensive program includes education, structured sharing times, networking, lectures, workshops and social activities. Gilda's Club Grand Rapids is the largest and busiest of the 52 affiliates in North America. The organization runs entirely on charitable donations and currently serves more than 10,000 individuals each year at its clubhouses in Grand Rapids and Lowell, in various schools and in five community centers. For more information, visit www.gildasclubgr.org.