Director: No plan to cancel folk fest

Posted Oct. 16, 2009, at 7:33 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Organizers of the American Folk Festival on Friday disputed published reports that they had suspended plans for the 2010 event pending resolution of their accumulated debt.

“Absolutely not,” said festival director Heather McCarthy. “We’re still discussing ideas and focusing on resolving our debt, but we are looking forward to next year.”

The annual festival on the Bangor Waterfront draws tens of thousands of visitors each August, but has generated approximately $130,000 in debt since it began in 2005. Last month, McCarthy and members of the festival’s board of directors indicated that finances were a concern and that they were considering a number of options, including charging admission.

MaineBiz magazine reported this week that planning of the 2010 festival has been suspended until the debts are settled. Some area radio stations picked up the story as well.

John Diamond, a member of the festival’s board of directors, however, concurred with McCarthy that no discussions have taken place about suspending the 2010 event.

“We’re continuing discussions about how to move forward and generate additional donations and revenue,” he said.

Figures released to the Bangor Daily News last month showed 2009 expenses at $1,034,292. The largest percentage went toward production costs, including tents, stages and utilities. Programming costs were the next-highest expense, followed by staff salaries and benefits.

Sponsor donations make up the biggest percentage of revenue, followed by vendor fees and souvenir sales and the annual Bucket Brigade, which took a hit this year in large part because of heavy rain on Saturday.

The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation made a donation a few years ago to offset losses in 2005, but the debt has mounted steadily since. McCarthy said the festival is still several thousand dollars short for 2009, in addition to past debts.

Organizers are considering another fundraising event in the off-season, even though the Festival Countdown Concert held last May at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono was not as successful as some had hoped. The ticket price of $45 was the biggest deterrent, McCarthy said, resulting in only a few thousand dollars in net revenue.

The folk festival director stressed that all options are on the table right now, but she said no decisions have been made.

“Many seem worth pursuing, but we’re still generating ideas,” she said.

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