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Flooding Closes Two Fest Platzes

Rain caused "major financial loss" for ArtsQuest, which is launching a community appeal.

Heavy rains and the overflowing Monocacy Creek have forced Musikfest to close two platzes today for the first time in the festival’s 28-year history.

has meanwhile announced that it is launching a relief fund to offset what it projects will be more than $750,000 in losses because of rain that fell on six of the festival’s 10 days.

Volksplatz and Handwerkplatz, the two lowest lying platzes that are both very close to the Monocacy Creek, were closed this morning.

The National Weather Service issued a statement that the Monocacy Creek had overflowed its banks in Bethlehem at 9:14am. The service had recorded more than 3½ inches of rain in the Lehigh Valley since nightfall Saturday and was calling for another one or two inches of rain today.

Heavy rains on Saturday night forced the festival to shorten the Nick Jonas concert at the Sands Steel Stage, according to reports. The Train concert scheduled there this evening is still going on as planned.

The fireworks, scheduled for 9:45 this evening, are also still planned, though they “are dependent on the weather,” according to an ArtsQuest news release issued this morning.

"Despite the rain, Musikfest remains open today, with music on all but one of our stages," ArtsQuest President Jeff Parks said through the release. "The changes we are making are designed to help ensure the safety of our guests at the festival.”

The news release said the creek flooding had caused “major damage” at Volksplatz and Handwerkplatz, which hosts an array of crafters and artisans and a 4-ton carillon where performs nightly.

The musical acts that had been scheduled to play at Volksplatz today have been canceled, except one. Balla Kouyate & World Vision, which came from Boston to be here, will play at the Air Products Town Square starting at 2pm instead of Audio Dynamikz.

The festival has faced a “major financial loss” because of the significant rain that fell during six of its ten days, including both weekends.

"It is ironic that one of the reasons for the development of the ArtsQuest Center and SteelStacks campus was to spread our financial risk throughout the year, rather than depend primarily on 10 days in August," Parks said. "This year is our most vulnerable year with the opening of SteelStacks and now we are facing significant financial losses at Musikfest."

ArtsQuest has announced the “Save Our Songs” relief fund, a first-of- its-kind plea for community help in Musikfest’s history.

The release said: “ArtsQuest has always put any net revenue generated from Musikfest back into arts and cultural programs for the community, including the new $26 million ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks. ArtsQuest does not have a financial reserve to support a loss of this size," Parks said.

"We realize that these are difficult times for our community so it is with great reluctance that we seek support," Parks said. "For 28 years, in good times and bad, we have offered everyone in our community, regardless of their financial means, a great festival and a chance to forget about the troubles of the world. Unfortunately, Mother Nature has intervened this year and has literally rained on our parade."

Pamela Porter August 14, 2011 at 05:55 PM
Doesn't the article state there is major damage to those two Platz areas? I wouldn't want to be down there with equipment that might get flooded or damaged.
Kathy August 14, 2011 at 06:29 PM
Who in their right minds would set up their wares in that area? This isn't the first time they've flooded there. I just can't understand it.
John August 14, 2011 at 06:39 PM
I can't understand such a huge loss, since it is staffed by volunteers.
Daryl Nerl (Editor) August 14, 2011 at 06:47 PM
The musicians are not volunteers. They are paid, generally out of a budget that is funded by the sale of food tickets, which don't get sold when it rains and people don't show up.
John August 14, 2011 at 06:50 PM
I still don't see 750,000 dollars in loss... I think it has to do with the splitting of Musikfest to North and South and they are blaming the weather...
Liz August 14, 2011 at 06:51 PM
OKay so I own a business in the city and lose money during Musikfest...who helps me out? Plus I have employees and health insurance to pay.....don't get me wrong I love and support and spend lots of money at the fest, but enough is enough!
Kathy August 14, 2011 at 07:21 PM
Liz -- I feel bad for you. It's not only that residents have to deal with loss of parking for 10 days near their homes, but it's also your loss of business. I guess the only hope is that people who might never have found your store otherwise might go back when the fest is over. That's the only potential benefit I see. Hopefully some of that bleedover happens. I used to like going to Musikfest, but I just can't tolerate brutal August heat. I really wish it was held in the autumn. A much prettier, more bearable time of year to enjoy the outdoors. It's too bad. I'd be a spending fool, too.
Daryl Nerl (Editor) August 14, 2011 at 07:35 PM
I'm not seeing the logic there, John. How would the splitting of the festival cause revenue loss>? As I see it, when both Saturdays and both Sundays are washouts, which as far as I know has never happened before, far fewer people show up to buy food tickets, beer and souvenirs, which are some of the prime Musikfest revenue generators. I'm amazed the loss isn't greater than $750,000.
Mary Anne Looby August 14, 2011 at 07:56 PM
I agree that nothing should be set up in a flood plane. This is an Artsquest problem. While I do believe in the 28 years this has never happened, I would like to know for how many years have "platzs" been in that particular area. Musicfest started out very small and it took many years to grow to its current size. I would bet that those "platzs" have not been there anywhere near 28 years. It is the result of Artsquest wanting bigger and better and moving into areas that might better be left to mother nature. As far as shows being cut short or not playing, let face it, it is August and if there is one thing you can bank on it's that it will rain during Musikfest. Agreed, last nights was a fast and heavy rain but that does not always happen. Maybe it is time for Artsquest to think about cutting back the number of days for Musikfest. Often times when people know there are only a few days to get to something they get there, rain or shine. I aslo agree with Kathy, August is an unbearable time of year to be outdoors. Having it in the fall ties into the idea of German "Beerfests" which happen all over the country in October.
Mary Anne Looby August 14, 2011 at 07:59 PM
If they don't have the money in their current budget to cover the costs of the musicians, they should not be booking them. That sounds like lottery ticket logic to me! Lets buy this and hope we win the lottery to pay for it. In this economy, no one should be operating like that.
Mary Anne Looby August 14, 2011 at 08:00 PM
I don't think the vendors choose their spots. Artsquest assigns them.
Nick August 14, 2011 at 09:09 PM
I'm a vendor at Musikfest that got wiped out. We are aware that ArtsQuest assigned us into a flood plain but no evacuation plan was in place obviously. They did not call any vendors nor come to our booth and "evacuate" us. We made the call ourselves after watching the monocacy gain 6 ft in 3 hours. It wasn't safe thats for sure, the current was moving and it rose quickly. They had time to evacuate vendors products but Arts Quest reluctantly shutdown 1 hour early at 10pm which was a little to late to coordinate anything getting out of there with multiple trucks and narrow roads. They did a disservice to their vendors who support Musikfest by not even mentioning them to the press but asking for 750,000 to support their loss and followed up with a "Save the songs" donation campaign. Baffling. I know most vendors are irate by no planning of evacuation/notification and some businesses lost everything. Most insurance doesn't cover flood damage (natural disasters). Arts Quest needs to focus on emergency coordinating for floods, disasters, etc. The public should demand it. They shouldn't be seeking free money within 24 hours of a flood without really taking a step back and looking at the big picture. Arts Quest let hundreds of people down that support them annually and then asked for money that they didn't get because of a non existent evacuation plan.
voice of reason August 14, 2011 at 09:58 PM
its about alcohol sales at musikfest, not vendors, chriskindlmart is for vedors
voice of reason August 14, 2011 at 10:00 PM
I really do not understand why this news is on SouthWhitehallPatch, Musikfest is a county and a city away from South Whitehall Township, this site is becoming less the "hyper-local" website the founder intended all the patch sites to be and more of mass marketing advertising
Liz August 14, 2011 at 10:35 PM
okay I just got back from the fest and oh yeah...very sad down there with the 2 platzs' closed. But there are people going, so maybe they will do better than they think. The creek is very high....
J. Drew Stefancin August 15, 2011 at 12:42 AM
I'm actually FOR this. It drives me NUTS when something is on the Palmer/Forks Patch but not the Easton Patch. Why are we pretending that what happens in one town is irrelevant to the others?
Julia Brady August 15, 2011 at 02:13 PM
Has anyone considered flood prevention. ArtsQuest,the city,the counties and other festival representatives(or any combination of these) could choose to have a long range flood contol plan since this flooding affects all citizens.It seems that flooding in this historic/fest/profitable tourist area is only going to be a continual if not worsening problem.Rational thought,problem solving,and common sense seem to be very much needed. As i make plans to travel back to my beloved Bethlehem for Celtic Fest in September, I wonder if this scenerio will be repeated. Heaven hold off on September rains, Julia Brady
John Pitosky August 15, 2011 at 04:43 PM
Even without the rains, vendors on the North side would have lost money. Most of the people attending concerts and shows on the South side did not venture over to North side. That two dollar cost for a shuttle bus between the north and south sides was a ripoff. It should have been free, as it was to walk between platzes when everything was on the North side. ArtsQuest made the decision to split the Platzes. They should have paid for the shuttle.
Katja Kruppe August 15, 2011 at 05:14 PM
I don't consider the South Side to be a split of the Fest, I considered it additional FREE entertainment. Most people can't walk all of the North Side in one visit, having these additional venues actually made me visit Musikfest more often this year and I visited both sides. When you are in a bigger city, people don't complain about the cost of transportation, why should it be different here? I am sure the complaints would be bigger if there was none offered at all. The only thing that bothered me was the $10 parking flat rate with no re-entry. I'm sure it would be much harder to manage, but pro-rating it by time of day entered would be great. I feel bad for the vendors who have lost most or everything in the floods. I am sure some sort of relief fund will be set up as well. Even if ArtsQuest assigned the spots they were in, isn't it at everybody's discretion and common sense to leave an area that is at risk for flooding and not wait till the last minute? If you are a vendor at any event, are they responsible for your losses? Aren't you making huge profit of being there on the good days and have to take on the risk of less or no profit on the bad days?
Mary Anne Looby August 15, 2011 at 09:24 PM
Kierstin, thanks for posting the "other side". So many people don't get it, and the vendors that want to come back are afraid to speak up. Good for you for exposing the greedy well oiled machine!
Katja Kruppe August 15, 2011 at 10:00 PM
So since I was unaware of the contractual details, I still find it hard to imagine that ArtsQuest would have punished any vendor for leaving early at the risk of the flood, especially given the outcome of the their delayed shut-down. Like I said, I feel bad for the vendors and also don't expect money from donations to recover losses would go to vendors, but maybe a separate operation for such donations to vendors only could help. Of course all of this, and a community coming together instead of being torn apart, can only be accomplished by people who are willing to look forward, make the best of what has happened and work through this with an positive attitude. People complaining and pointing fingers doesn't help. I am also curious how this "greedy well oiled machine" is using all their profits. I mean, by your description they must be swimming in money like Scrooge McDuck and not give back to the community and arts at all. It sounds like they don't care about Bethlehem and have done absolutely nothing for the region but managed to take in money laugh in our faces while doing so.
JKGC August 16, 2011 at 12:12 AM
So people should just be nice little lambs and just shut up and say nothing, not share feelings and tell the truth? Fingers need to be pointed to the correct people who are responsible. Mr Park talks a big game but that is all, I attended one of his speeches and he was talking about how much ArtsQuest is doing for the local community etc.. I live in Bethlehem and have a business here, I figured I would try to be a vendor at Musikfest and applied. They chose vendors from out of state over us even tho we are from Bethlehem. I still went to Musikfest and applied again and after several attempts, was finally approved to be a vendor because someone else backed out at the last minute. They take a huge percentage of the gross sales and that is the reason why the prices are so crazy. ArtsQuest employees are rude and think too much of themselves. I still think the idea is a great idea. It could be a lot of fun if it was not all about profits for ArtsQuest. If you speak to 80% of the vendors they will tell you it's not as good as it used to be. I have been here for almost 10 years and I can see the difference between the last 2 years and the first year I went to musikfest. Nobody at ArtsQuest thought of taking an insurance, then fire the people at the top. ArtsQuest is certainly not going to help the little vendor recoup the losses it encountered, it's all about them and nothing else counts, if I'm wrong send examples. Should we just be quiet and let people think all is great? Nope
Katja Kruppe August 16, 2011 at 12:34 AM
No one says the vendors should be quiet and not voice their opinion on how things were/ are handled, but also use the energy to unite and start a fundraiser to benefit vendors directly to recoup losses (especially the ones that got flooded, not so much the ones that lost income due to weather). As it was pointed out, ArtsQuest does pay the musicians, the crazy prices for food and drinks have always been a donation in my eyes rather than a true price for it. (food at the farmers fairs cost about the same and you even have to pay to get in) Every year I end up having unused tickets that I either give to someone at the fest or just keep and also see as a donation for the music and entertainment I was able to enjoy for free. I am curious, how much has the percentage vendors give up on their profits + permit to sell there changed from before ArtsQuest was in charge and now? I am seriously confused why if all the vendors are unhappy (and it seems to be the case), they haven't stood up and united to address the issues? I also have seen a bunch of cases where business owners have taken initiative to take advantage of the crowds and draw future clients, I don't see how it only benefits ArtsQuest.
Mary Anne Looby August 16, 2011 at 01:40 AM
It's all well and good for someone who is not a vendor to have lots of ideas for them. Vendors make their living from these kinds of events, held all over the country, it's not just Musikfest and Celticfest. If you want to vend, you put up and shut up. People talk. A vendor who speaks up can very easily be black balled on the "festival circut". If word gets out that a vendor is difficult, they can loose their livelyhood. If you knew any vendors personally, you would know this.

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