OGDEN — The number of visitors during the Heritage Festival in May, marking the sesquicentennial of the driving of the Golden Spike, wasn’t quite as high as boosters here had been bracing for.
Still, the numbers were impressive, officials say. An estimated 100,000 or so people visited downtown Ogden during the the three days of events here on May 9, 10 and 11, bolstering business activity all around the city center.
Moreover, hotel occupancy spiked, credit card spending jumped and the event exposed Ogden and Weber County to a huge swath of people, said Sara Toliver, president and chief executive officer of Visit Ogden.
On Tuesday, five months after the activities here, Toliver and Kim Bowsher of the Ogden Downtown Alliance offered Weber County commissioners a rundown of the impact of the three days of action. They were awaiting release of spending data that only comes out periodically before offering up their final accounting.
The Heritage Day activities at Union Station and along Historic 25th Street were part of events held statewide to mark the 150th Anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Summit in neighboring Box Elder County on May 10, 1869. Part of Wall Avenue in front of Union Station and Historic 25th Street between Wall and Grant avenues were closed to autos to accommodate the activities in Ogden.
In planning, officials had prepared for up to 200,000 visitors, Toliver said. Still, that only an estimated 100,000 came, including nearly 10,000 alone to the meeting of two historic steam engines at Union Station in Ogden on the first day of the event, May 9, satisfied officials here.
“The moment of truth came and we had a full street and a full downtown for those three days starting with the Steam Meet on Thursday morning,” Bowsher said.
A review of data based strictly on Visa credit card activity showed a jump for the month of May in spending in Ogden of $802,000 compared to May 2018, Toliver said.
“To see that increase in May was great,” she said. In general, month-to-month spending this year, otherwise, has held steady or dipped compared to last year, according to the Visa numbers.
What’s more, hotel occupancy in downtown Ogden surged 9.4% in May versus the same month a year before, Toliver said, with the average daily rate hotels charge increasing from around $113 to $122 in the period. Visitors, the Visa data showed, came from around the country and abroad.
“The impact to our community is the most important piece to us,” Toliver said. And anecdotal information from business operators all around the city center area, not just Historic 25th Street, indicated increased sales.
Toliver also noted all the publicity the Golden Spike events received in the media. Some 2,146 articles on the activities reached an audience of 1.18 billion people, which translates into an advertising value of some $10.9 million.
“That (public relations) value has a long-term benefit,” she said, increasing Ogden’s standing and visibility in the public eye.