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Musikfest Attendance Suffered Steep Decline

Six days of rain out of 10 blamed; public appeal for donations gets "tremendous response."

Socked with rain for more than half of its 10-day run, Musikfest saw its attendance this year drop to 860,000 people, the first time in a decade that festival visitors did not exceed 1 million, ArtsQuest officials said today.

While ticket sales for paid concerts Musikfest 2011 were about as good as they had been in 2010, a decline in overall visitors meant a steep drop in food ticket and merchandise sales and an estimated loss of $750,000.

That loss has prompted ArtsQuest to make a – the Save Our Songs Musikfest Relief Fund. While there have been many negative comments following stories on media Websites, ArtsQuest officials say they have gotten a positive response.

ArtsQuest President Jeff Parks told The Morning Call that the effort has so far garnered about $50,000, with hundreds of people kicking in donations of between $10 and $10,000.

"Since we announced Save Our Songs, we have had tremendous response from the community," said ArtsQuest Board of Trustees member Sam Torrence, through an organization release. "Several of the bands that played at Musikfest 2011 have offered to perform for free at upcoming ArtsQuest events and festivals, and we have also received numerous donations from the public, as well as our sponsors and ArtsQuest members. The community has always supported Musikfest over the years, and we definitely can use its help right now."

The $750,000 loss at this point is an estimate. The complete financial picture will not be known until “after all expenses are accounted for, a process that will take until at least mid-October to complete,” the organization news release said.

The festival experienced rain on six of its 10 days, including all four of its weekend days, which are typically the busiest days of the festival.

On Saturday Aug. 13, torrential downpours of more than three inches caused the Monocacy Creek to overspill its banks near the Colonial Industrial Quarter, . Volksplatz and Handwerkplatz, the crafters and artisans area, and did not reopen for the festival’s final day on Aug. 14.

Many of the vendors in both of those areas experienced additional losses from flood damage that destroyed inventory and equipment.

ArtsQuest has offered all of the affected vendors – about 40 in all – complimentary space for one of its upcoming fall festivals. Those would be the SteelJam from Sept. 2 to 5; the Blast Furnace Blues Festival from Sept. 16 to 18; or one of two Oktoberfest weekends from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2 or Oct. 6 to 9.

ArtsQuest has also provided all of the affected vendors a refund equivalent to one day of rent for the lost Musikfest day, about $65.

"Our vendors are important and valued partners," said Parks. "While the financial results of Musikfest 2011 are not what we had hoped for, either for us or our vendors, we hope that these upcoming festivals will present them with an opportunity to recoup some of the business they lost as a result of being unable to open on the last day of Musikfest."

Mary Anne Looby August 27, 2011 at 11:58 AM
Have the ArtsQuest executives offered to take a paycut to make up for the shortfall cause by their poor planning? You can only expand a festival so much before putting the vendors and attendees in jeopardy. Nothing should ever be set up along the Monocacy in August, everyone knows the that there is a great opportunity for flood. It has happened before, it will happen again. Why not move that whole area to a spot on the Southside. It will bring added interest and there will be more than Steel Stacks to draw people.
tracey August 27, 2011 at 01:06 PM
When I first heard about the request for donations, I found it to be rather distasteful, and a few weeks later, I still do. Anyone familiar with Musikfest at all knows the weather always plays a factor. Add to that the current economic climate, the move to Southside, and the complete mess of road construction, and I this should have been no surprise to anyone, least of a ll the planners of the event! Despite our own financial difficulties, we attended Musikfest twice, spending a good amount both times. We have also visited Artsquest for movies and concerts, spending money on those occasions as well. I think we've done enough, and perhaps it's time to address the internal issues of planning and spending.
Patriot2 August 27, 2011 at 09:58 PM
The handwerkplatz is a natural to move up to Main Street next year to complement the shopping experience of Main Street.
Kierstin Carreira August 28, 2011 at 11:46 AM
I still think this is abhorrent, they have no right asking for money. And as for their "compensation" to the vendors who lost inventory... a lot of those people were artists, not as easy to replace artwork, you can't just order more. Artsquest needs to put on their big boy panties and take this as a business loss. I also agree with Mary Anne Looby that the executives should take a pay cut.

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