Bangor council approves 5-year deals with Waterfront Concerts, American Folk Festival

Posted July 23, 2012, at 10:47 p.m.
Last modified July 23, 2012, at 11:21 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Both Waterfront Concerts and the American Folk Festival had new five-year leases approved unanimously by the City Council on Monday night, but organizers of the KahBang Music and Art Festival will have to wait another three weeks.

Because of a perceived discrepancy concerning blackout dates — calendar dates that both the American Folk Festival and KahBang select to hold their concurrently running events to give them exclusive use of the Waterfront Pavilion — the council voted 5-3 to postpone a vote to approve a long-term lease until the council’s Aug. 13 meeting.

Joshua Gass, KahBang’s creative director, came to the public microphone in front of the council just before the scheduled vote to voice concerns that some of the contract language might not be correct. He specifically referred to contract language calling the annual festival a two-day, and not four-day, event.

Gass said while the music festival would be four days this year, only two would be spent at the Pavilion site. One would be centered in downtown Bangor and the other would be at the festival campsite, which is located behind The Sports Arena property off outer Hammond Street near the Hermon-Bangor line.

Councilor Pat Blanchette made a motion to delay the approval vote until the next council meeting and it was seconded. Councilors James Gallant and Sue Hawes voiced concerns that delaying the vote might also necessitate delaying the ensuing votes for both Waterfront Concerts and the American Folk Festival, which will take place Aug. 24-26 this year.

Councilors Hawes, Gallant and Charlie Longo were the three “no” votes against Blanchette’s motion. Councilor Nelson Durgin was absent Monday night.

Gass said delaying an approval vote would not affect this year’s festival, which will run Aug. 9-12.

The approval votes terminate current contracts and make 2012 the first year of the new five-year deals.

“Certainly, it will add to the efficiency to what both the city and each event organizer is doing,” said Bangor Parks and Recreation Department director Tracy Willette. “It’ll streamline the process so now we can just pick up at the beginning of each season with dates rather than start all over with a new deal.”

The contracts for Waterfront Concerts and KahBang are close to identical, with both required to pay Bangor $1.25 for every ticket sold and reimburse the city for any incurred expenses, including need for services such as emergency, sanitation or parks and rec.

Previously, contracts with KahBang, now in its fourth year, and Waterfront Concerts, now in its third, were for one year at a time. The folk festival’s current lease was for three years.

“What this allows us to do is now we can hold dates a year or two away for acts requesting them,” said Waterfront Concerts promoter Alex Gray. “This gives us a lot more long-range flexibility and opportunity.”

The folk festival is exempted from the $1.25 payments as it does not charge admission.

“Two groups sell tickets, while the folk festival is unique because it’s a free admission event,” Willette explained. “As things develop and improvements are made down there, we’ll be able to come back and negotiate terms as we go.”

The city has agreed to continue with in-kind support for the American Folk Festival with an annual amount not to exceed $50,000, as long as the event remains free and open to the public.

An exclusive portion of the contract between Bangor and Waterfront Concerts calls for a 50/50 split of parking fees collected from parking at Pickering Square Garage. The city keeps 100 percent of all other parking revenue during shows.

Another wrinkle in the Waterfront Concerts contract is language concerning construction of a new, permanent amphitheater.

“Additionally, the agreement anticipates that the City will construct a new, permanent concert venue within five years. The new agreement provides that both parties will negotiate terms and conditions for the use of a permanent concert venue once construction has been completed and it is ready for use,” reads the council agenda’s executive summary.

The contract itself calls for both parties to negotiate an amendment to this agreement or a separate agreement regarding each party’s financial contribution to construction for the permanent concert venue, including cost of power, fencing/screening and a sound study.

“There are still a lot of things that need to be done,” said Gray. “We have to push forward and make sure we continue to do a great job and work together to make a permanent amphitheater a reality in Bangor.

“I’m happy to see this latest development in our relationship with the city. It’s further progress, as well as a sign that the city and the council are headed in the right direction.”

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