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No big cost for Neil Diamond appearance on SD float, official says

Singer Neil Diamond performed on the South Dakota Tourism's float featuring Mount Rushmore in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade this year. (AP photo)

Having legendary crooner Neil Diamond aboard South Dakota's float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was the cheapest part of the project, according to a state tourism official.

The state Department of Tourism spent about $220,000 on a float and some mascots at the parade. Performers are not compensated for appearing in the parade, but the department will pay up to $5,000 for Diamond's travel and other expenses associated with his appearance. That's a standard amount Macy's requires for any group featuring a performer on its float, and not specific to Diamond -- in other words, the state would have faced the same cost for any other performer.

Landing Diamond was a "happy coincidence," said Wanda Goodman, spokeswoman for the Department of Tourism.

She said the department can suggest the type of musical artist it wants, but Macy's talent staff is responsible for contacting and securing the talent.

After going back and forth with Macy's and suggesting various artists, Goodman said the department agreed at the last minute to have Diamond on the float.

The department was able to raise $65,000 from various sources within the state's tourism industry to help fund the project. The remaining funds came from the department's marketing budget, which totals about $7 million.

"It was absolutely worth it," Goodman said. "You simply cannot buy that much exposure for the amount of money we invested."

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade drew 29.6 million television viewers last year and consistently brings 3 million live spectators to the streets of New York City.

Goodman said the department's investment worked out to less than a penny spent on each viewer.

"The majority of our marketing funds are going toward doing something new, different and outside the box, and that's what the Macy's Day Parade was," she said. "We'll continue to throw out some crazy ideas and see what we can make work."

According to Gov. Dennis Daugaard's Budget Report for 2012, South Dakota's tourism industry will have an estimated $2.42 billion impact on the state this year, including $970 million in visitor spending and 33,720 people employed in tourism-related jobs.

Visitors spent an estimated $36.6 million in Davison County in 2010.

"I think we've gotten a lot smarter with our marketing over the last few years," Goodman said. "We're definitely very careful with how we spend our marketing dollars and making sure we're putting them in the right places."

Of the total amount spent for the parade project, $200,000 went toward admission to the parade and the cost of the float. Another $20,000 went toward an advertising campaign to coincide with the parade, which sent four mascots -- each representing a president on Mount Rushmore -- to New York City to promote the float and the 70th anniversary of the completion of Mount Rushmore.

The mascots were in New York for two days and appeared at Macy's Family Fun Day, an event where families can interact with many of the characters who will later appear in the parade.

Dave Haan, director of public relations for Lawrence & Schiller, a Sioux Falls advertising agency that handles tourism work for the state, said the Mount Rushmore mascots generated buzz in the city.

"You see something like that walking down the street, and you're going to want to take a picture, put it up on your Facebook and show it to your friends," he said.