An event portfolio in rural development: an ethnographic investigation of a community's use of sport and cultural events
Ziakas, Vassilios, 1976-
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Sport events have been studied predominantly in isolation from other genres, as single events that have economic or social impacts mainly for urban communities. Yet, the apparent economic and social value of recurring small-scale sport and cultural events in rural communities call for strategic and integrated planning in policies for rural development. This requires that instead of assessing the economic or social benefits of a certain event, a series of interrelated events that comprise a host community's event portfolio can be synergized to derive outcomes through a holistic planning approach that places in concert the economic and social planning of different events. From this perspective, this study examines the event portfolio of a rural community. Ethnographic methods were employed and fieldwork was conducted in Fort Stockton, a small community in South-West Texas. Data collection included participant observation, interviews, review of archival materials and social network analysis. The results show that Fort Stockton's event portfolio is an embedded and eclectic assemblage of sport and cultural performances, collective imaginary and thematic preoccupations of the community that are presented as suitable for spectation. The instrumental connectivity of events bolsters the capacity of the portfolio to serve multiple purposes although strategic cross-leverage is not employed. Thematic continuities among events in the portfolio reaffirm and establish the projected meta-messages within and outside the community. A conceptual synergy lies at the core of each event, which dramatizes the ideological conflict between individualism and collectivism, and translates it to community identity, civic esteem, and economic benefit addressing the public discourse in Fort Stockton and mobilizing resources for event implementations. The institutional framework of Fort Stockton constitutes the basis of its capacity to capitalize on its event portfolio. Event organizers operate within an informal event network that frames their cooperative efforts to host events. Therefore, the event portfolio stands as an embedded system in which an integrated approach is taken about economic and social development by creating synergies between sport and cultural events and in turn using them for consolidating the community and fostering tourism. Finally, the theoretical and practical implications that derive from the study are discussed.