Festival Facing Financial Changes as New Decade Dawns
The decade that is ending in 2019 has not, generally, been an overwhelming financial success for the Festival. This is due to a variety of change-based reasons that simply could not then, and cannot now be easily avoided:
- Recovery from the “Great Recession” that we entered in 2009/2010 has been slow. The stock market has rebounded and the economy seems strong; but, individual and corporate investors, stung by what happened ten years ago, remain cautious and conservative with their fund management. The financial aspects of marketing have changed; and, while Corporate Sponsorship is still the massive support for an ardently grateful Festival that it always was, it can no longer be described as “ever-increasing.”
- Local governments are constantly pushed to try to maintain or even increase taxpayer services, while not increasing taxes. It is more and more difficult for local governments to support the Festival with outright monetary donations and in-kind contributions to the level that was possible in the 20th
- In an ever more dangerous and unpredictable world, the Festival is constantly asked to increase its budgets for uniformed security, perimeter barricades, extra lighting, and other public services. This area of the Festival’s budget is, justifiably, many, many times higher now than it was in the 20th
- Times change, people change and tastes change. It has become increasingly obvious to Festival Organizers that some Festival events simply do not resonate with the public in the 21st century as they did in the last century. The Festival is constantly called on to re-invent itself to match a changing world.
- And, perhaps most obviously, the Festival has had terrible luck with the weather during the past decade. Five times in the last seven years, torrential rains and/or wind and cold have plagued Festival events, culminating in very heavy, event-flooding rains on Parade Weekend the past two years.
Barrett Machine Weekend-in-the-Park Becomes Barrett Machine Sunday Spectacular
Faced with the truths listed above, Festival President, Barry Carper, and new Executive Director, Brad Veach, have been tasked by the Festival Board with creating and managing an “austerity budget” for the 2020 Festival. Festival Organizers were asked to “think outside the box,” and to look for major changes that would help the Festival adapt to current times and simultaneously manage expenses. One major change will be the re-scheduling of the 2-day Barrett Machine Weekend-in-the-Park event to the 1-day Barrett Machine Sunday Spectacular. Long-time area residents will remember when this event started as the 1-day Sunday-in-the-Park event. It was eventually expanded into the 2-day Weekend-in-the-Park event; but, the only facet of the event that was actually staged on Saturday of Parade Weekend was the Arts and Crafts Show. All other event facets [the Festival Car Show; the New Horizons Kids’ Funday; the Subaru Adventure Show; the event’s food-and-games Midway; and, special live performances] were all staged only on Sunday. In an effort to concentrate the impact of the event and to save on expenses, the event will go “back to the future” and once more become a Sunday-only event. In another “back to the future” aspect, the Festival’s Donegal Insurance Group Bluegrass Fest, which started at the original Sunday-in-the-Park event, will be brought back to the Barrett Machine Sunday Spectacular. There will be more information on this change in a subsequent Media Release.
The Donegal Insurance Group Bluegrass Fest Moves Back to Jim Barnett Park
Puzzling changes in the Festival’s bluegrass event have been confounding Festival Organizers for the last 20 years. When the event separated itself from the old Sunday-in-the-Park event some 30 years ago, it regularly sold over 1,000 tickets a year. It maintained itself for the first ten years after it moved to the Festival Event Tent; but, over the past 20 years, through the tenures of a string of very strong and very capable Event Chairs; and, with talents such as Ricky Skaggs, Rhonda Vincent, Michael Cleveland, Doyle Lawson and Linda Lay [to name a few], the event has, for the most part, “under-achieved.” When the Festival moved all of its tent events to the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics & Events Center at Shenandoah University, it put even more pressure on the bluegrass event. It had been moved from a venue of approximately 20,000 square feet to a venue of approximately 70,000 square feet. As Festival Organizers have learned, it takes a big, active event with a lot of tables and chairs to fill a space that big. In an effort to not only revitalize the bluegrass event but also to help revitalize the Festival-ending Park event, Festival Organizers will be bringing the Donegal Insurance Group Bluegrass Fest back to the Park, to the Barrett Machine Sunday Spectacular. From 11:00 am to 4:00 pm, a series of bluegrass bands with a local flavor will play in the Kiwanis Shelter, elevated slightly above the lawns containing the Arts and Crafts Show. Once inside the grounds of the Barrett Machine Sunday Spectacularevent, there is no further charge to enjoy the bluegrass music. This change in the Festival schedule means that the Ability Home Care Country Music Party will end the schedule of Festival events at the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics & Events Center at Shenandoah University at midnight on Saturday night, May 2nd, 2020.
Changes in Festival Seating at the Queen’s Reviewing Stand on Handley Boulevard
The annual construction of the Queen’s Reviewing Stand on Handley Boulevard has become, in the Festival World, rather iconic in its own right. Unfortunately, this very temporary structure costs tens of thousands of dollars; and, to be perfectly honest with the Bloom Nation, the Festival has not been able to raise ticket prices in that area to offset the burgeoning cost of the construction for nearly 20 years. In an effort to balance the Festival budget of 2020, Festival Organizers felt that they had to eliminate the public seating portion of the structure. The Festival currently sells three rows of ground-level chairs on the sidewalk and grass plot on the south side of Handley Boulevard [on the campus] between Braddock Street and Washington Street; and, in 2020, that seating will simply be extended on the south side of Handley Boulevard [on the campus] on through the block between Washington Street and Stewart Street. This is still actually above-average-quality seating. There will still be a raised structure in the area for the VIP Suites for Corporate Box Seating. The Parade Judges will still be in the area, as will the TV production crew. Bands will still give their best performances on Handley Boulevard in the block between Washington Street and Stewart Street. It is not known at this time if the Festival will be able to create a public address sound system and provide public address announcers in that area as it has in the past. All of these changes [the 1-day Barrett Machine Sunday Spectacular, the new location for the Donegal Insurance Group Bluegrass Fest, and the seating changes on Handley Boulevard] are noted in the Festival’s T3 Brochure and on the 2020 Festival Ticket Form which was released to the public at the Festival’s Theme Announcement Party on Wednesday evening, November 13th, 2019, at 7:00pm.