Western Maryland Blues Fest founder hopes for another great show

November 25, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE |
  • Ronnie Earl performs at the Western Maryland Blues Fest in Hagerstown in this June 4, 2012 file photo.
File photo

HAGERSTOWN — Throughout the past 17 years of the Western Maryland Blues Fest in Hagerstown, various challenges have threatened the success of scheduled performances and events, especially when inclement weather disrupts the forecast for the four-day event.

The second day of this past year’s festival, Friday, June 1, was one of the most difficult in memory, Blues Fest founder Carl Disque told the Hagerstown City Council last week.

A strong storm with heavy rains and wind swept through the region that afternoon and early evening, causing delays as spectators ran for cover and bands rushed to cover up equipment.

Disque said he was proud of the way city staff and Blues Fest volunteers managed the situation and still were able to put on that evening’s show.

“We still lost an audience and lost revenue associated with that audience, like beer sales, tickets, but also souvenir sales,” he said. “But we were able to put it on. Those who missed it missed an incredible show.”

City Community Affairs Manager Karen Giffin said the city received $20,000 as a result of a rain insurance claim on that day, with $1,000 in reimbursements going to The Maryland Theatre. More than one-quarter inch of rain fell between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on June 1, satisfying the required threshold for the claim, she said.

Disque said he’s hoping for another great show when the 18th annual Blues Fest kicks off Thursday, May 30, 2013, and runs through Sunday, June 2, 2013.

Disque and Giffin recently presented the city council with its proposed budget for the 18th installment of the growing city tradition, without much change from last year’s spending plan. It was approved Nov. 20.

The proposed budget projects $221,557 in revenues and $219,500 in expenses, resulting in a potential net profit of $2,057. The budget does not factor in approximately $52,000 in services donated by the city over the four-day event.

In addition to $70,000 in ticket sales, the proposed budget reflects $90,000 in anticipated corporate sponsorships as well as more than $15,000 from the local and state arts councils, which has been confirmed with those organizations, Giffin said.

Other revenues of about $46,000 are expected from vendors, merchandise and beer sales, according to the proposed budget.

Major expenses include $55,000 for booking artists, $44,000 in marketing and $41,000 for technical support, according to the proposal.

A total of $38,000 has been tabbed for hospitality costs, other supplies and event insurance, which came in quite handy in last year’s storms, Disque said.

“That’s a very wise thing and it certainly proved its wisdom this year,” he told the city council, crediting Giffin’s diligence in pursuing a claim from the incident in spite of a lack of available data from the National Weather Service, which lost some of its reporting systems during the storm.

Disque thanked the current administration for its continued support of the event as well as area businesses that sponsor the event and allow organizers to keep ticket prices manageable while still putting on a good show.

“It really is amazing all the different constituencies we try to serve in Blues Fest and do so successfully,” Disque said. “Thanks to you all and thanks to the community for making this event so great for the last 17 years, and we’re confident for next year, the 18th.”

Along with the help of more than 200 volunteers, corporate and nonprofit organization sponsorships are instrumental to the event, Giffin said.

For the past few years, its been estimated that the Blues Fest creates an economic impact of $2.5 million in total direct and indirect spending in the area, according to Thomas B. Riford, president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“It does take public and private partnership, and as Carl said thank you for your support not only this year but year’s past,” she said. “And we hope we can move forward and continue this signature event for Hagerstown.”

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