Bob and Flo Fitzgerald are competitive skaters from the Bay Area. They've been coming to this competition since it moved to Fresno from Bakersfield fourteen years ago. "Fresno is a nice town, it's a nice feeling town, it has a lot of old town character that we really love, but yet it has a lot of great things to see and do too."
And, spend money on.
"Of course, yes, yes," said Bob.
Flo added, "We're spending money in Fresno."
According to Laura Calderon of the Fresno Convention and Visitors Bureau, this six day event is expected to put about one hundred thousand dollars into the local economy. "When those individuals come to town they are not only booking a hotel room they're buying gas they are purchasing food at restaurants, they are going out shopping so they are dropping a lot of dollars here."
Just down the street there's' another competition. About one hundred young women from around the state are warming up for the Miss California Pageant, and the Miss Outstanding Teen Competition. Calderon estimates the contestants, their families, and fans will spend close to $200 thousand this week. "For us and all of our businesses it's wonderful to have that."
Both events are regulars to Fresno, but are a needed shot in the arm this year. Bill Overfelt, General Manager of the Fresno Convention and Entertainment Center, says the recession has hurt. "I think overall we are down a little from last year, I have noticed some of our public events, ticket sales are down, I still think the economy has a ways to go here in the Central Valley."
Fresno Chamber of Commerce President Al Smith, says having pageant contestants and skating competitors pays off. "I would venture to say more than half of these people have never been to Fresno before, and they will all be ambassadors for the city when they leave here and go back to their homes."
Bob and Flo are among those ambassadors. Bob said, "Fresno's been very good to us."
The Southwest Pacific Regional Roller Skating Championships run through Sunday. The Miss California Pageant concludes on Saturday night.