Durbin Day wasn’t just about celebrating 22-year-old American Idol contestant James Durbin’s return to Santa Cruz—from the city’s perspective, it also meant dollar signs, increased hotel occupancy (which has been low in the last several years), and increased “buzz” about Santa Cruz.
Kris Reyes, community relations director for the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, where the May 14 event was held, tells GT that Durbin Day boosted the Boardwalk’s sales, but adds that the event’s impact will be more far-reaching than that.
"James Durbin’s return to Santa Cruz and performance at the Boardwalk turned what would have been an OK Saturday in May into a 'good day' in terms of sales,” Reyes says. “But the true economic impact will be felt in the long-term, as this was another amazing opportunity to showcase Santa Cruz and the Boardwalk as one of the premiere destinations to visit in California."
The event, which gathered an estimated 30,000 people, also helped spike hotel occupancy levels during what is known to be a lull between spring breaks and Memorial Day weekend. The Santa Cruz County Conference & Visitors Council (CVC) reports that hotels occupancy was at, or near to, capacity the weekend of Durbin Day. They also report that it generated an estimated $1 million in visitor spending.
There was initial speculation that the planned homecoming, which is a tradition for American Idol contestants who reach the top three, would be canceled following Durbin's May 12 elimination from the competition; however Durbin was able to return to Santa Cruz—a first in the show's history. The Boardwalk reports that show producers have asked for footage of the Durbin Day celebration and may feature it in the May 18 episode of Idol, which will show the homecomings of this year's top three singers still in the competition.
The event, a collaborative effort between the City of Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz County CVC, the Downtown Santa Cruz Association and Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce, featured a concert with The White Album Ensemble beginning at 4 p.m., joined by Durbin at 5 p.m. Santa Cruz City Mayor Ryan Coonerty was present to honor Durbin for his achievements on American Idol.
Durbin, who was diagnosed as a child with Tourette's and Asperger's syndrome, has been a source of inspiration for many across the country. In addition to the concert, Durbin took time to visit Downtown Santa Cruz, speaking at the Louden Nelson Center and visiting the Teen Center to address groups of Santa Cruz youth, sign autographs and answer questions.
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