Drive-in movies at the fairgrounds? Bygone era is back with inflatable screen, thanks to county tourism fund

The San Juan County Council approved funding recommendations for tourism facilities grants totaling $411,000 for the coming year — a 12-percent increase over the amount allocated a year ago.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the list of recommendations offered up by the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee is a $25,000 grant to purchase equipment for a drive-in movie venue at the San Juan County fairgrounds main field carnival site.

The fair expects to offer movies on 23 nights between April and November, with room for about 100 cars and 50 spectators at each after-dusk movie. The drive-in, including expected concession stand sales, is projected to generate about $24,000 in annual revenue. It will not operate during the county fair.

The grants approved July 16 by the County Council are consistent with amounts recommended by the county LTAC, a volunteer panel tasked with evaluating requests for funding from the county lodging tax facilities fund. The amount allocated for local tourism-related facilities and events totaled $366,700 for 2013.

The LTAC facilities grants are about half of the lodging tax funds available for distribution by the county. The other half of the money is used for direct tourism promotion; 85 percent for the San Juan Island Visitors Bureau and five percent for the Orcas, Lopez and San Juan chambers of commerce.

As in past years, slightly less than half of the money, $190,000, was awarded to San Juan County parks and fairground operations and just over 20 percent, or about $85,000, will be divided among performing arts centers on San Juan, Lopez and Orcas islands.

Dona Wuthnow, director of the county Parks and Fair department, said the lodging tax funds represent about 15 percent of the parks and fairgrounds operating budget. As in past years, the Fairgrounds will receive a little less than one-third of the total; the money for the drive-in movie equipment is a separate capital expenditure.

The allocations to the three performing arts centers represent about 17.5 percent of the Lopez center yearly budget, 6.25 percent of the Orcas center budget, and 5.6 percent of the San Juan Community Theatre budget.

As in past years, grants were provided to historical museums on Orcas, Lopez and San Juan islands (each will received about $22,000) and to the San Juan Island Museum of Art ($5,210).

Eight new projects competed for grants; five were approved for a total of $49,000 out of $124,000 in requests. The LTAC rejected funding requests by the Friday Harbor Film Festival, arts studio tour promoters on Orcas, Lopez and San Juan islands and the Lopez Community Tennis Association to resurface the Lopez tennis court were not recommended.

Two projects in a new "innovative projects" category in the LTAC Master Plan were funded: the fairgrounds drive-in movie equipment and a $6,100 grant to create an annual Orcas Island Birding Festival, beginning in May.

Other first-time grants were made to the Lopez Island Conservation Corps ($13,950), a Gateway to Indian Island signage project ($2,725) and the Friday Harbor Pioneer Family Festival ($1,252).

The detailed grant applications can be found at

The list of recommendations is available at


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