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Riverfest slumps: Ticket, concessions sales down

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Catherine W. Idzerda
July 14, 2009
— The weather was beautiful.

It didn't matter.


Tickets were inexpensive.


It didn't matter.


The economy is in an unprecedented slump.


It mattered.


Rod Beaudoin, Riverfest executive director, on Monday reported ticket sales to the five-day music festival were down.


"Well, we had fantastic weather, but gate sales were down, beer sales were down, everything was down," Beaudoin said.


Exactly how much "everything was down" won't be known until later this week, Beaudoin said.


The losses come at an especially hard time for the festival.


Last year's torrential rains forced organizers to cancel an evening. The 2008 cancellation cost an estimated $74,000 in direct expenses and $100,000 in potential revenue from tickets sales and other purchases.


This year, Beaudoin hoped to lure people back with advance ticket specials including five nights for $25. Despite the bargain-basement prices, advance ticket sales from June were down about 53 percent from last June.


When last-minute ticket buyers didn't take up the slack, Beaudoin knew he was in trouble.


He thinks unemployment—and anxiety about unemployment—caused the drop in sales.


"With GM closing, the down economy has had a stronger impact on Rock County," Beaudoin said. "People are stressed; people are strained."


What's next?


"The first thing I'm going to do is to get a couple of nights of sleep," Beaudoin said. "Then I'm going to go through the numbers, and I'll meet with the executive board next week."


The purpose of the meeting will be to "take a step back and then begin to problem solve."


When asked if the discussion would include ending the festival, Beaudoin said, "I think everything has to be on the table."


"It depends on where were end up in the red; it's such a big festival for a small city," he said. "But the festival is really a source of community pride. We've got 500, 600 volunteers involved."



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