Ross Benincasa, Executive Director of Discover Easton, the agency responsible for promoting tourism and Easton’s local businesses, is stepping down on December 31, 2020. Benincasa, who has been in the position for four years, has escalated Easton’s marketing substantially, growing the community’s presence throughout the Washington, DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia regions.
Benincasa’s last event will be the 2021 First Night Talbot virtual celebration, Talbot County’s family-friendly New Year’s Eve festivities for over 27 years. What is usually a night of live performances spread out throughout Easton will instead be delivered directly to residents’ homes via live stream on December 31, 2020, culminating in the world-famous Easton Crab Drop at 9 p.m.
“Ross has brought considerable talent and value to Discover Easton and the Town of Easton. He rebuilt our website and has been a master at digital marketing, earning the town millions of impressions each year,” commented Jeff Schneider, President, Discover Easton. “Over the years, he has been instrumental in acquiring many grants to support marketing efforts for the Easton business community, including an annual six-figure contribution from Google, and recently negotiated the soon-to-be announced COVID-19 relief grants for Easton’s downtown businesses.”
Benincasa also worked to re-accredit Easton’s Main Street Maryland and Main Street America programs, which the town of Easton had allowed to lapse, and established Talbot County’s first Arts & Entertainment District in Easton – one of the largest A&E Districts in the State of Maryland. In 2020 he was chosen as a presenter at the National Main Street Center conference in Dallas, Texas for his digital marketing work in rural communities. He has also been steadfast in his desire to increase the diversity of Easton’s Main Street businesses, making a point to strategically grow the district by incorporating Easton’s Dover Street businesses in 2020 and engaging the East End neighborhood in the town’s Arts & Entertainment District.
In addition, Benincasa’s focus on free, family-friendly events led signature Easton events such as the St. Patrick’s Day parade and Moonlight Madness to grow under his leadership, as did the number of new events in downtown Easton, including the Chesapeake Fire & Ice Festival and the Easton Arts District Culture Crossing. Last year’s inaugural Fire and Ice Festival brought over 6,000 visitors to the town during one of the traditionally slowest times of the year. When these signature events were canceled due to the pandemic, Benincasa helped organize the sale of over $30,000 in small business gift cards to help Easton’s small businesses.
“As a councilman and as a citizen, my family and I have benefited from Ross’ great work. He is always receptive to new ideas and has worked hard to bring people to Easton’s downtown. He also put energy into including Easton’s neighborhoods in his events and activities such as Dover and Aurora Streets and the East End. This has really expanded the downtown’s reach and broadened participation. He will be missed,” commented Megan Cook, Easton Town Council President.
Although his work is ending with Discover Easton, Benincasa will continue to serve on the boards of Chesapeake Music and Talbot Interfaith Shelter, as well as in his role as commissioner in the Town of Hillsboro, where he and his family reside.
“While the last several months may have been a bit surreal, being able to settle our family and work in such a beautiful area has been one of the great joys of my life,” Benincasa said. “The credit for our accomplishments over the past four years goes directly to the small business owners and organizations that we have partnered with around Easton, and their presence makes me optimistic for the Town’s future. I am so grateful for the outpouring of support and well-wishes that I have received over the past few months and look forward to enjoying Easton’s businesses and events with my family as a customer and attendee.”
“Our board is very sad to lose Ross as our Executive Director. Unfortunately, the Town of Easton chose to transfer our funding to be managed through Easton Economic Development Corporation and they have chosen not to fund our initiatives or events, leaving us without the necessary funding to support an Executive Director,” Schneider added. “However, Discover Easton is not going away. We still have a mission to serve our businesses. A large part of the business community has indicated they still need and want our support. At the end of the day, we have a funding problem that we hope to resolve in 2021.”
About Discover Easton: Discover Easton is a marketing, promotion and events non-profit organization operating as a member of the Mid-Shore Community Foundation. The mission of Discover Easton is to enhance, promote and preserve the vitality of Easton’s independent merchants which benefit business owners, residents and visitors; and to bring awareness to the Town’s historical roots and lifestyles.