Murder continues to be good for Langley.
It may be faux murder committed every February during the annual Mystery Weekend, but the money is very real.
“Once again, we broke records for Mystery Weekend,” said Inge Morascini, executive director of the Langley Chamber of Commerce that hosts the two-day event.
Gross sales of tickets and merchandise were up 25 percent over the previous year, she said. Pre-sales of tickets shot up 43 percent and advertising revenue also increased.
The chamber sold T-shirts, sweatshirts and posters with this year’s Mystery Weekend “Killing Time” steam punk design that Morascini said she created with the help of computer-generated art.
The merchandise proved to be a hit and quickly sold out.
“Both the time-travel theme and the concentrated marketing effort are responsible for the increases this year,” Morascini said. “The time travel theme was a master stroke by writer Loretta Martin, as it allowed for a diverse group of characters, one more interesting than the next. Loretta has been writing the mystery for 20 years and comes up with a unique approach each year.”
The chamber also boosted online marketing efforts to metropolitan and surrounding areas south to Portland and North to Vancouver.
It also got help from Whidbey Telecom’s local television segments that it produces weekly, “What’s up Whidbey.”
“We also partnered with Whidbey Tel, who did interviews with our venerable writer, Loretta Martin, and several segments on their “What’s up Whidbey” program with the cast of characters,” Morascini said. “All of this material was published online and was used to promote Mystery Weekend to the target audience.”
Also on the first day of the Mystery, Whidbey Tel did a running live show, with characters coming in and out of the studio set. Actors came through the Big Gig building to study posters of people named as top suspects.
“It’s wonderful to have their capability so close to hand and their willingness to partner is a godsend when you’re working with a small marketing budget,” Morascini said of Whidbey Telecom.
The chamber’s overall estimated gross revenue added up to $24,185. It counts Mystery Weekend as one of its most successful events to generate funds needed for its activities.
Besides boosting the chamber’s bottom line, the event is bringing in business to local merchants in record numbers.
“Merchants responding to request for information indicated 20 to 25 percent increase in gross sales,” Morascini said. “Village Wines and Sweet Mona’s hit all-time record sales.”
Area hotels, bed and breakfast inns and other lodging reported full beds.
From questions asked of those attending, the chamber estimates 82 percent of Mystery Weekend players traveled from off island and more than half spent the night.
The “whodunit” event involves a regular cast of characters that every year confront a strange series of events and a puzzling death.
Individuals or groups buy a $12 ticket that includes articles about the strange happenings in The Langley Gazette and a map that leads to clues in places around area restaurants and stores.