By Raiza Giorgi
The Solvang City Council has hired San Francisco-based event management company IDK Events to spearhead this year’s Julefest celebration, on the condition that it works with Daniel Lahr as a consultant to ensure Danish traditions are well respected.
“I’m confident that Daniel could put on this event himself, but with such a short window of time, having the resources to leverage IDK would be a great way to make the event that much bigger,” said the Councilor Karen Waite.
The board received three offers from IDK, Lahr and Pink Cadillac Entertainment and had to make a decision quickly as the month-long Julefest begins in late November and runs until New Years. IDK produces street fairs and festivals such as the Union Street Fair and the annual San Francisco Pride Parade.; Lahr, a Santa Ynez Valley native and special programs manager for the Solvang Conference and Visitor’s Bureau, has organized the Julefest event for the past two years and was the creator of several of the new events, including the Nisse Adventure , the Glogg Contest and VIP Tours and Pink Cadillac produced events in Santa Barbara, Carpinteria and hosted the Hollywood Christmas Parade and Culver City Centennial ceremonies.
The board heard presentations from each of the bidders who gave their event planning experience, examples of other large-scale and/or Christmas-themed events they have hosted, and ideas for Julefest stands out even more.
Presenters were then interviewed by the board on how they track their audience and event-goers, marketing and publicity strategies, and how they envision Julefest becoming self-sustaining.
“We want this event to be self-contained as we are looking at budget issues,” Mayor Ryan Toussaint said.
All presenters said the key to self-sufficiency was having ticketed events during the week and weekends to attract crowds not only for major sub-events such as the Julefest parade or illumination ceremonies trees.
Pink Cadillac has included in its offer a carnival with rides and an ice rink. IDK suggested holding more smaller events and encouraging more sponsorships. Lahr suggested more ticketed events and family nights to encourage overnight stays and local participation. Lahr also suggested an interactive app people could download to go on scavenger hunts and partner with local businesses.
“I’m originally from the Santa Ynez Valley and I remember what it was like to experience the transformation of the beautiful city during the Christmas season. Additionally, after producing two very successful years, I learned, first-hand, about visitor responses, local business needs, and the economic impact of Julefest on not just Solvang, but the wider community. of the Santa Ynez Valley,” says Lahr.
Lahr continued that he was honored that Solvang was named “The Best Christmas Town in California” by the New York Post, and one of the “Best Christmas Towns in America” by Readers Digest and premiering this year in O! Magazine (Oprah magazine). He also worked with a film production company to make a Hallmark Channel movie to film during Julefest this year.
Pink Cadillac and Lahr have suggested a New Year’s Eve celebration at 3 p.m., while Denmark will be at midnight. Pink Cadillac has added daytime fireworks for this time, which is less expensive than nighttime. Councilman Chris Djernaes liked the suggestion and asked if IDK was able to do the same, to which they said yes.
Djernaes also talked about hosting a light show like the Cambria Christmas Market, and all the presenters said that would be a great addition, but with smaller scale time/budget constraints it could possibly work and perhaps add more in the years to come.
There was a speaker during public comments from Shelby Sim, the president and CEO of Visit the Santa Ynez Valley. He came out in favor of hiring Lahr because he is local and has already produced the event and improved it over the past two years.
“I believe the big companies could do a great job, but Daniel is the local guy who knows everything to get the job done. He’s been handcuffed in the past and has amazing talents and ideas if you give him a chance,” Sim said.
When brought back to council for discussion, Councilor Robert Clarke said it was obvious Lahr needed to be involved, which was echoed by Waite and Councilor Daniel Johnson.
“I like Daniel because he has the history and the institutional knowledge to make sure the traditions stay alive. We’re a board that doesn’t always play by the rules, so why not hire Daniel as a consultant and hire some two,” Clarke suggested.
Waite said this would have to be approved by Lahr and the other presenters to whom IDK said he had already called Lahr as a debt collector to hire him, and he immediately offered Lahr a job.
“I don’t usually hire people without talking to them first to see if they want the job, but Daniel is great,” said Scott Shuemake, founder of IDK.
The board then voted to hire IDK with Lahr as a consultant and contract terms such as additional costs and events are to be negotiated. The vote was 3–1–1 with Djernaes abstaining because he couldn’t make a decision, and Johnson voting no because Djernaes wanted more time. Check back for updates to this story.