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The Scoop 4-29
When $62,500 is a nice tune
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Folks occasionally put on their thinking caps and try to come up with a way to make Warren County rich and famous.


How can we get noticed? What's something that will make people want to visit? How can we ever attract tourists who are eager to spend money?


Community leaders have channeled their energy toward answering those questions for years. Insightful ideas have been harder to grow than nursery stock.


But one man has found an answer to the riddle of how to bring people to Warren County. His name is Todd Mayo and he descended on the idea -- literally -- during a family trip to Cumberland Caverns.


A music executive, Todd was stunned by the beauty of the Volcano Room at Cumberland Caverns. He saw the room in an entirely different light, if 300-foot caves have different degrees of light. Todd visualized a stage, and a concert venue, and he actually believed people would enjoy listening to music in the depths of a cave.


As odd as it may have seemed to everyone else at the time, Todd's dream of turning a cave into a concert hall has come to life. What started as a radio show has blossomed into a TV series on PBS that's broadcast around the country.


Bluegrass Underground has been shown in major U.S. markets, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. It's been piped into thousands upon thousands of homes like a 30-minute commercial for Warren County.


I mention all this because I've heard grumblings that suggest the money the city of McMinnville is spending to underwrite Bluegrass Underground is misguided. If the proposal under consideration passes on second read, it will cost the city $62,500 a year for the next three years.


That's a lot of tacos, no doubt, but Bluegrass Underground has also provided unprecedented exposure for our area. I don't see a New Yorker getting a glimpse of Warren County from their living room any other way.


Just like people flocked to Boston to visit the bar where "Cheers" was filmed, people are coming to Warren County to explore the cave where Bluegrass Underground is recorded. The show is like a giant magnet below the earth's surface.


While it is a good chunk of change, I consider the city's $62,500 sponsorship of Bluegrass Underground as money well spent to attract people to our community. It's an investment -- and one which has already paid dividends as Bluegrass Underground promoters say visitors from 41 states have made the trip to Warren County to check out a show. This seems like an effective use of $62,500.


In 2015, there were 20 Bluegrass Underground events, both TV and radio, bringing roughly 12,000 people to this area. That means the $62,500 equates to about $5.20 per person.


I bet they spend more than that while they're here.


Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.