By Janene Scully, Noozhawk North County Editor

An out-of-town event planning company will spearhead Solvang’s marketing and tourism services through June 30 for $300,000, and city officials have confirmed that the annual mid-March Taste of Solvang will not occur. 

The City Council voted unanimously Monday to hire for-profit IDK Events, which is based in San Francisco and planned Solvang’s 2019 Julefest celebration.

“We think we’re going to help and bring exciting local events to Solvang, create some really strong processes around those events that I think will be good for everybody — businesses, residents and tourists obviously,” said Scott Shuemake, from IDK Events.

Solvang has scrambled to fulfill marketing and tourism activities long handled by the Solvang Conference and Visitor’s Bureau since deciding against funding the independent nonprofit organization.

Although the city stopped funding SCVB months ago, the council has lacked an apparent replacement plan, causing the cancellation of Taste of Solvang, which would have marked its 28th edition in 2020.

Shuemake said his firm didn’t have enough time for Taste of Solvang, previously planned by the SCVB, to occur this year. 

“I think at this stage it will be really tough to pull something off at that scale,” Shuemake said, adding that he spoke with local hotel operators to ensure already reserved rooms aren’t lost or “there’s no pain felt from that.

“But we want to bring something a little bit bigger and different to market in April under maybe the moniker Taste of Solvang,” he said.

Late last year, IDK Events was selected from a field of bidders to organize Julefest, with the contract including an option to continue to provide “event services” for a monthly retainer of $15,000.

The city did not solicit proposals for firms to provide tourism and marketing services for Solvang and instead moved toward offering IDK a new contract.

The council recently directed staff to develop requests for proposals for marketing and tourism services before June 30 and to solicit bids for the future.

IDK also included the option for the city to renew its latest contract for $600,000 for the 2020-21 fiscal year, which begins July 1. 

Shuemake has said his firm believes marketing is best accomplished through experiences, adding IDK is not a destination-marketing organization, but said the Visit Santa Ynez Valley does those tasks.

“What we want to do is create experiences and market those experiences,” Shuemake said. 

The new contract calls for IDK to create a 13-member community-based steering committee to define “experiential marketing goals” for all facets of the community.

However, the non-binding steering committee will be tasked with reviewing applications for all events proposed for the city, including some longstanding ones spearheaded by other nonprofit groups.

Shuemake said IDK will work with city staff to introduce new standards regarding recycling, cleanliness, fire and health standards and crowd management, while reviewing the permit fee structure.

Some $50,000 will be doled out to nonprofit groups planning local events such as the Fourth of July celebration and Danish Days “to make sure there’s no uncertainty around their continuing,” Shuemake said.

In the future, they plan to establish requirements ensuring events bring bed tax or sales tax increases, promote Danish culture or otherwise benefit locals, he added.

The firm, which has handled planning for events such as the San Francisco Pride Parade, the Union Street Fair, and Formula-E events, will redesign the website, with unveiling expected in the first 90 days.

The agreement also calls for IDK to provide digital marketing activities to support tourism.

“We are super excited about some of the content that we already have in the pipeline, and are quite sure that six months from now, we’ll be able to show that we can ensure we’re bringing the quote ‘right tourist to Solvang,’ and making sure everybody is benefiting from those tourists,” Shuemake said.

Shuemake said IDK would provide operations and logistic support, noting the firm has a warehouse with equipment for assorted events.

“I think this provides a pretty strong baseline to get us through the end of this fiscal year, and will give us some momentum into the next fiscal year, and gives folks a good feeling that we’re not going to the next year the way we went into 2020,” Shuemake said.

Mayor Ryan Toussaint said IDK would serve as a resource for those planning other events in the city.

“Whether it’s Danish Days happening or whatever, they could all work with IDK. We can work through the steering committee to vet it through the community and come up with the best possible situations, best possible events,” Toussaint said. “I think all that’s great.” 

Visit SYV spends $1 million marketing the broader valley, Toussaint said.

“We’re the heart of the valley. Let’s give Visit SYV some experiences that they can market here,” the mayor added.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at