Why the Mosquito Festival has become so successful

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

Once again, people will be flocking in the sweltering July heat to the Mosquito Festival in Clute to enjoy a good, old-fashioned, small-town good time.

It all started in 1981 as just another community summer festival. While there were good people working hard on making it a success, there was no way they could have known how this event would gain so much momentum.

I’ve been around for most of it and watched the festival grow each year as it started garnering more and more attention. There are crazier festivals around the world, but few, if any, have come up with a better marketing campaign.

This festival was one of the first in the area to try to capitalize on a catchy name. The Mosquito Festival soon became an oddity and gained international attention. Who would ever celebrate the mosquito in July?

In the 1980s, when I was reporting on Brazoria County for the Houston Chronicle, the paper’s features editor ordered up an article on the festival. “I know you have done a piece on this each year, but we need another one. It’s the middle of the summer, and there is nothing else going on,” she said apologetically.

I don’t want to count how many pre-festival pieces I had done for the Chronicle during the 12 years I was with the paper, but it was probably around 12.

I didn’t mind doing them, each year thinking of a different angle, just in case some of the readers had seen the previous stories. It was a nice break from the routine Chronicle reporting.

And, the people I called up for interviews knew how to spin the story, probably realizing that we have to do something that we hadn’t done in the previous six years or so. They were experts on how to push the press’ buttons. I was just one of many who wanted something different each year.

So, after all these years, the festival is as big as ever, and still is one of the few things to do this deep into the summer. And, if you go because you have heard that the festival is famous worldwide, get ready for something different than what you may have imagined.

It is a top-quality summer, small-town festival that offers a lot of activities, a carnival and entertainment rolled into the price of admission. It is the product of volunteers and the Clute Parks Department, who keep it successful.

But a lot of these type of festivals have a hard-working staff and dedicated volunteers. How has this one stayed in the limelight for for so many years?

Marketing and timing.

You can put on the best show ever, the best festival in the world, but without marketing, it goes nowhere.

And, when you’re the only show in town, chances are that you’ll get a lot more ink and airtime than trying to compete with several other events taking place at the same time.

Once the marketing is in place, and the crowds walk through the gate, they have to have a good time and leave happy. That leads to word-of-mouth marketing.

In 1986, a baby entered the Skeeter Beater Baby Crawling Contest and crawled all the way to First Place - because the other babies stopped and started crying earlier than he did. A couple were disqualified for actually getting up and walking. That was not allowed under the crawling rules.

The winner was John Toth III. I was dangling a camera in front of him to make him crawl just a little farther. Yes, memories are made of this. I have retold this story hundreds of times, and here it is again.

I hope to see everyone at the festival. I’ll be as hot in the July sun as everybody else, but it’s for a good cause - to honor the mosquito.

What a gimmick.