Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Economy taking fun out of festivals

DATE: March 14, 2010
DETAILS: A stagnant economy means there are fewer reasons to celebrate this summer for some communities, or at least fewer resources to do it.
Faced with budget woes and potential business sponsors who may have more pressing concerns than getting their name slapped on a community event, the slice of Americana that is summer food-tasting events and July 4 fireworks extravaganzas is set to get thinner for many jurisdictions.

Mason's Red, Rhythm & Boom will have less panache this July than in prior years, when the music set was headlined by groups such as Kansas, Styx and Huey Lewis and the News, the act that played the event in 2009 at a cost of $140,000.

The city spent $400,000 on Red, Rhythm & Boom last year, including personnel and other ancillary costs, according to Parks and Recreation Director Michael Hecker.

This year, faced with declining income tax receipts, Mason is turning to local bands and is looking at increasing the fireworks budget - but keeping the cost at about half of last year's event.

"One of the things that council looked at was the patriotism of the event," Hecker said.

Red White and Blue Ash, one of the Tristate's best-known July 4 events, is still on, as is Taste of Blue Ash. Taste of Blue Ash, a three-day food and entertainment festival, is in its 25th year in 2010.

However, to have the city's premier summer bashes - which draw about 300,000 people and cost about $500,000 in total - Blue Ash will have to cut from other recreational programming, said Chuck Funk, parks and recreation director.

The biggest casualty is country music fest Summerbration, saving about $100,000, though the concert could come back next year.

"We felt like it was good to have two really strong events and postpone one of them for a year," said Funk.

Other, smaller events around Cincinnati rely heavily on sponsorship, something that is difficult to find in the current lackluster economy.

The July 4 celebration in Hyde Park, held each year since 1970, is struggling to find sponsors.

Hyde Park's event received money from Cincinnati's Neighborhood Support Program last year, but cutbacks and difficulties in dealing with the city mean Hyde Park can't count on the funding now, said Neighborhood Council President Ann Gerwin.

"The point is the Hyde Park Neighborhood Council is not going to be able to do it in the future without a sponsor," Gerwin said. A decision on the event will be made in the spring.

The future of the All-American Birthday at Sawyer Point is also uncertain.

"It's our intention for it to happen," said Stephanni Cohen of the Cincinnati Recreation Commission. "But it's sponsor-based, and it will happen based on the success of seeking sponsorship."

No city general fund dollars are used for the event. A contract is not in place, Cohen said, but organizers expect to decide the status of the All-American Birthday in May.

Plagued by a sluggish economy and the loss of a major donor, organizers of the 2009 Independence Day celebration in the Northern Kentucky city that shares the same name kept the two-day holiday event afloat with the help of dozens of donors. This year is no different.

"We're hoping that there's no change, but everything is being reviewed," said Independence Police Capt. Tony Lucas, who's helped organize the event the past four years. "The mayor has pretty much mandated that we have to raise $25,000. We did that last year with sponsorships.

"We're selling our $1,000 package to local businesses. For that, their name goes on all the T-shirts and printed items and in the media area. Some businesses have already agreed to be a sponsor, but we're still looking for more."

The July 2-3 celebration includes a parade, live musical entertainment, food booths, rides, and other family-friendly events in the city's Memorial Park. It'll be capped off with Vito's Fireworks at 10 p.m. July 3.

Although the 12th annual holiday celebration is organized by the city of Independence and its special events committee, no city money is used. Each year, organizers rely on sponsorships, booth rentals and donations to pay for the event.

The economy won't rain on other parades in Northern Kentucky, in Newport and Covington. Organizers in both cities said they are planning the same number of festivals as last year and don't anticipate scaling back any of them.

Newport in 2009 eliminated the Newport Arts & Jazz festival due to dwindling attendance. Attendance has remained steady at other festivals, and no festivals will be cut this year, said Sal Wertheim, Newport's special events coordinator. Several festivals a year are held in Newport, including Goettafest, the Great Inland Seafood Festival and the largest, Italianfest. The city only sponsors two festivals, Riverfest and Italianfest, Wertheim said.

"We have been successful doing the festivals last year," Wertheim said. "Even with the economy the way it is, the attendance was better."

The MainStrasse Village Association in Covington also has weathered the economy and has no plans to scale back festivals, said Executive Director Kim Blank.

"We are not really changing the festivals," Blank said. "We are watching costs, but we are trying to keep everything the same as in the past."

Finally, communities have bucked being responsible for summer festivals entirely.

Springfield Township, which has struggled with deficit projections in recent years, canceled its Summer Blast two years ago, saving $45,000, said spokeswoman Kimberlee Flamm.

"Instead, we replaced that with a lot of smaller events," Flamm said, most of them fee-based.

In Sharonville, the Independence Day parade will make a comeback after a hiatus last year when all July 4 festivities were canceled, according to Carolyn Ransick, Sharonville recreation program manager. Ransick said the July 4 festivities were a community staple in Sharonville for 25 years and cost $33,000 in 2006.

Jurisdictions such as West Chester Township looked at all the hassle and cost of hosting tasters, festivals and firework shows that are already ubiquitous in a Greater Cincinnati summer and decided to say no.

Early last decade, trustees stopped electing to run events, said spokeswoman Barb Wilson. "Most of our events (now) are presented by other organizations and West Chester provides support for these events.

"Here in West Chester, we decided to not really be in the event business," Wilson said.

Staff Writer Cindy Schroeder contributed.

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ThePark wrote:
Deer Park's, Days in the Park, August 6th & 7th relies strictly on funds raised by our park board, we use no taxpayer monies and no money from the city's budget. We plan on expanding our festival this year. Come join us for a rocking good-time as we host Cincinnati's favorite party band the Rusty Griswold's on Saturday and Prizoner on Friday, See you there.
3/16/2010 7:06:08 PM
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CinciJoe wrote:
Not everyone is scaling back - St. Catharine in Westwood is kicking off the festival season with the first annual Cincinnati Italian Festival May 14-16 at Harvest Home Park in Cheviot. "CincItalia" has local Italian restaurants, Italian Music & Dancing, an Italian Car Show, a bocce tournament and a lot more planned. CincItalia will be the climax of Italian Week here in Cincinnati and is involving many groups from throughout the city. Just Google "CincItalia".
3/15/2010 6:41:42 AM
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Economy taking fun out of festivals -- the economy is taking fun out of living. Time to get this party started !!!
3/14/2010 11:38:05 PM
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lickorice wrote:
No new Taxes!!!!!
3/14/2010 7:52:06 PM
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DrJCA wrote:
Why don't they all simply have a donation buckets and if each person contributed just .50 it would help out a lot. The festivals are fun for all, but there are some areas and individuals that are hurting in this economy. As for the other comment I read, I believe that we are in this mess for many, many reasons. Current administration didn't help, but neither did the former one. In fact, we have had good and bad times in the US before, during, and after admins that leaned left or right. We are a very complicated country with a huge disparity in income, needs, and wants. We will always have our ups and downs, no matter who the idiots are in DC & state levels of government.
3/14/2010 7:11:26 PM
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