Music festival cancelled due to lack of sales, volunteers
It was a tough decision, but when the math was done and the Central Music Festival didn’t have enough volunteers or ticket sales, the logical thing to do was cancel the upcoming event.
Mike Bradford, Central Music Festival Society president, made the decision on Sunday to cancel this weekend’s event and then set about contacting everyone he had to. The festival was to run from the coming Friday through Sunday.
“We had to make a decision based on the fact we needed 700 more paying customers and we couldn’t count on them just showing up at the gate the day of the festival,” Bradford said on Tuesday. “It was an easy decision in that respect. That’s a big risk to take, especially when you have to meet a payroll and cover production expenses, which are close to $50,000 for the weekend.”
Just a week before the show would have gone on, Bradford said they had only sold 100 advanced tickets when they needed to sell 800 in total. As well, they were really lacking in volunteers, having half as many as they would like to have to run the festival smoothly.
“Without a full compliment of volunteers, that brings up safety and efficiency issues.”
Tickets will be refunded to those who purchased them. Bradford said they would return the money by either reversing the online purchase or cutting cheques if need be.
With most of the material and equipment expected to show up today or Thursday, Bradford said they were able to cancel deliveries.
“All the ancillary tents, chairs, tables, electric power and all that stuff we get in, a lot of it is supplied by local sponsors as in-kind donations,” said Bradford. “The only supplier we deal with is the for the big stage cover, which is in Calgary and we were able to cancel it in time.”
It is unclear what will happen to the $5,000 to $6,000 in public money the festival received from the City of Red Deer and Red Deer County.
“We’ll find out — it was earmarked for specific functions,” said Bradford.
Deposits were made on some of the 26 performers, including Randi Boulton, Captain Tractor, Bill Bourne and Amos Garrett. Bradford said he contacted as many of the sponsors and performers as possible and talked with them personally prior to the public announcement.
“Some of them I’ve known for a while and I’ve talked to them and we decided to put the deposits on tab, so to speak, so the next time they come through we’ll take that into account because they’ve already been paid so much money,” said Bradford.
In preparation for the event, the festival was advertised in numerous publications and programs for the Canmore, Calgary and Edmonton folk music festivals. More than 800 posters are hung in Alberta every year and 2,500 postcards are distributed. Feature articles in Red Deer print publications and over the radio were also done in preparation for the event. The festival’s Facebook page has more than 500 likes and a reach of about 39,000 people, plus the society has an active Twitter account.
“I’m curious how people don’t know about our festival,” said Bradford.
People may also confuse the festival with CentreFest, an annual busker event in downtown Red Deer earlier in the summer.
“I don’t know where that confusion comes from, but our advertising, photos and logos are completely different, we don’t take place downtown,” said Bradford. “I don’t know if people are actually paying attention to advertising anymore.”
Sylvan Lake’s popular Jazz at the Lake Festival also runs this weekend.
Although there are several other events in Central Alberta, and throughout the province, Bradford said Central Music Festival should have a place among them.
“These things build slowly but there is plenty of room in the world,” said Bradford. “There are about 100,000 people in the Red Deer area now, there are lots of things to do. It’s just inevitable that there will be a lot of stuff going on.
“People are going to choose where they are going to go and we have a good place to go. Eventually we’re going to have a full house there.”
Bradford said people were generally disappointed when they were informed, but some offered to volunteer to work on building the festival’s audience in light of the cancellation. Going forward, he said volunteer recruitment is something they have to pay more attention to.
“We’ll be back next year,” said Bradford. “Red Deer can support all these things that are going on, it’s great the arts community is getting decent places to perform, we’re just one part of that.”