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Magazine ad puts Nevada City in spotlight

On the same day that California’s same-sex weddings were making news worldwide, a decision the night before by the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce was making a fair amount of news all by itself.

The vote by the chamber’s board of directors to spend $1,000 for a wedding ad that would appear in The Advocate, a gay magazine, was first reported Tuesday in The Union.

Nevada City’s Downtown Business Association and Nevada County Pride, a gay and lesbian group, also contributed $1,000 to the ad that will appear in July’s Summer Travel edition of the magazine, according to John Paul of the Downtown Business Association.



Within hours of publication, the story was picked up by the Associated Press and soon appeared in newspapers statewide and on Web sites nationwide. Almost all stories seized upon the angle that Nevada City wants to “cash in” on same-sex marriages.

Merchants interviewed about the publicity are comfortable with Nevada City being a community where gay weddings are held, although some objected to the use of chamber funds for an ad so narrowly focused on one demographic group.




National Hotel owner Tom Coleman is one of the 13 chamber board members. He abstained from voting on the ad since his hotel hosts weddings, but said last week he would have voted “no” even though the ad could benefit him more directly than others.

“I would have opposed it because of the fact it has a limited circulation group. I would have liked to see us advertise in a more general circulation magazine,” said Coleman, whose hotel has booked one same-sex wedding.

Pat Dyer, who owns the Utopian Stone jewelry store, also objected to the chamber paying for The Advocate ad.

“I don’t see us buying an ad that promotes us as a jewelry city. This has all the earmarks of blowing up because of the issue,” he said.

However, he added later that “if we’re getting publicity, it’s a good thing.”

Not everyone agrees with the advertising concerns.

Cathy Whittlesey, the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said the ad is just a continuation of Nevada City’s “Wedding Capital of California” campaign, which came about as a result of a past City Council resolution.

Mimi Boardman, who recently started the Sunday Market in her Stonehouse restaurant parking lot to boost business, said the chamber got a good deal to buy a national ad for $3,000.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to target a get-married-right-now audience and to do that for such a cheap cost,” she said. “As a marketer, I’m 100,000 percent for it.”

Paul said he expects a flood of gay weddings between now and November, when California voters likely will vote on a ballot measure that could end same-sex weddings in the state.

“We’re known for being gay friendly and have for a long time. Why not take advantage of it?” said Paul, who was married Tuesday to his partner at the Rood Center along with five other gay couples.

Paul said The Advocate is not a sex magazine. He described it as the nation’s “oldest and preeminent gay magazine,” with a circulation of 175,000 and newsstand sales of another 88,000.

He pointed to a recent decision in New York where the governor ordered all state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

“That means half of Manhatten will be in California soon,” Paul said.

Others, however, are concerned the chamber’s decision to spend the $1,000, which is half of its annual marketing budget, amounts to a political endorsement of same-sex marriage.

Others have thought it inappropriate to spend taxpayers’ money on the ad since the chamber gets a total of $45,000 from Nevada County and Nevada City.

Jeff Ackerman, the chamber’s board president and The Union publisher, said he raised those concerns when the chamber debated the proposal last Monday.

“We have taxpayer money here, and we’re talking about an issue that is on the ballot in November and we’re supposed to be apolitical,” he said last week.

Proposition 22, which prohibited same-sex weddings until the Supreme Court legalized then on May 15, was supported by 65 percent of Nevada County voters in March of 2000.

“A good percentage of Nevada County apparently has a problem with same-sex marriage,” Ackerman said.

In the end, however, Ackerman and a clear majority of the board voted to spend the money for the ad.

“Our job is commerce, and I do see an economic opportunity and feel first and foremost we need to help our businesses that are struggling,” Ackerman said.

The vote came after the Downtown Business Association report at the same meeting said 10 businesses are for sale and seven are considering leaving Nevada City.

Coleman said an average wedding costs around $10,000 and ripples through the local economy. But even though his wedding business is down this year, he would have rather seen the $1,000 spent differently.

“Weddings are a big part of the economy, and we should cater to that. But I think we should advertise everywhere and not to just a specific area,” he said.

Jamie O’Donnell, who co-owns the Harmony Ridge Lodge that promotes itself as a gay-friendly business, said regardless of the chamber’s decision, he senses the community supports same-sex wedding ceremonies.

“I’ve had many people in the local community ask me if we’re going to jump on this new business,” he said.

To contact Staff Writer Pat Butler, e-mail pbutler@theunion.com or call477-4239.


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