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Clark County

July 23, 2013

Popular Jeffersonville festival under financial scrutiny

Officials looking to minimize costs for blues and barbecue event

JEFFERSONVILLE — If a funding gap cannot be covered, one of Jeffersonville’s more popular events might be in jeopardy.

The numbers are in for this year’s Smokin’ on the River BBQ, Blues and Brews festival, and they don’t look good for the city. According to Sara Schutz, director of special events and RiverStage for Jeffersonville’s Parks Department, the festival cost the city $33,985. Combined with last year’s event, the city has lost more than $68,000 the past two years.

It is the fifth time Jeffersonville has hosted the two-day festival, which has become one of the largest draws for the RiverStage and Jeffersonville’s riverfront. Schutz also said previously that it has become the second-largest barbecue festival in the state of Indiana.

While the interest in the event is unquestioned, the cost it takes to host the barbecue festival each year is under scrutiny.

“I think the question is, are we comfortable losing $34,000 on the event?” asked Parks Authority President Ed Zastawny after the numbers were presented on Monday.

Despite the loss to Jeffersonville, the fifth annual event cost the city less than it did to put on last year’s Smokin’ on the River festival, which incurred a loss of $34,626.

More than 50 professional barbecue teams and 10 backyard amateur teams competed in the competition and generated $10,952 in entry fees. Attendance figures were also the highest in the five years of the event.

“As far as our attendance I think it was, by far, our best year,” Schutz said.

Weather helped to draw in the record crowds, but for the city the financial loss is still a concern.

“I think there’s going to come a point where we’re going to have to do something,” said Parks Authority Board Member Connie Sellers said. “We cannot keep going in the red on everything, we’re going to have to do something to start bringing in money to cover these expenses.”

While canceling the event is unlikely, if the funding gap is not covered, other considerations like charging a fee for attendees might move forward.

But offering the event for free is what sets it apart, Schutz said.

“We’re unique in the fact that it’s free,” she said. “Of course, we want to try and keep everything we do down at the RiverStage free.”

The first area Schutz said the parks department will look at is covering the costs by seeking additional sponsors.

“I think fundraising is something we really have to work on,” she said.

Schutz added that she was approached at this year’s event that a potential sponsor may be willing to pay $25,000 toward the event.

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