Parks and rec committee charged with finding private sponsors
Before contributing any money to the 2012 edition of Weddstock, the Weddington town council wants to see if the festival can be fully funded by private donations.
“I think the event is great (but) is it the role of the town to help fund it?” Mayor Walker Davidson asked. “As a Republican, I think we ought to try to do things privately before doing it publicly.”
More than 5,000 people from two counties came out to the 2011 Weddstock event, which raised money for six charity groups. According to information event organizers provided to the town, the 2011 festival cost $201,572.92 to hold, paid for with $168,290 in in-kind donations, with remaining expenses of $33,282.92. During the day, Weddstock officials collected $47,575.73.
That left $14,292.81. Under the agreement reached with the town, after expenses were paid, the first $7500 in profit from sponsorships went to the charity Kids First. After that, 25 cents of every dollar was supposed to go to the town, with the other 75 cents going to Kids First. Additionally, all profit made from wine and beer sales and other collections from the event would go to Kids First.
All total, Weddstock organizers donated $8,991.72 to Kids First of the Carolinas. Additionally, $2,907 went to Droplets, a local group that builds wells in Africa. $574 was given to the Weddington High cheerleaders, $500 to the local Girl Scout troop’s planned France trip, $820 to the local paintball club and $500 to Waddell Middle School for a planned student exchange trip.
The problem for Davidson and other council members was that in each of the festival’s first two years in operation, the town’s sponsorship went up, from an initial $2,500 to $11,000 the first year and then $20,000 in 2011.
“I have always been concerned that the town funds this,” council member Barbara Harrison said. “We should be havings parks and rec work as a group to get corporate sponsorships.”
Harrison highlighted the fact that other neighboring festivals, such as Matthews Alive, pay the town back before money goes to any outside agency.
In 2010, during the inaugural season of the festival, the event was spread out over five Fridays.
The organizing committee expected to cover 25 percent of the costs with cash donations from visitors or product sales. The committee expected to cover the remaining 75 percent with in-kind services, such as volunteer labor or free radio spots.
Residents were split between funding the festival and keeping tax dollars for necessities.
“Our town council is sitting on my tax dollars and its burning a hole in your pocket,” Weddington resident Annette Baker told board members. “If it’s not fire, police or medic, I don’t want my tax dollars going for it.”
Fellow resident and former mayoral candidate Stephanie Belcher said it was worth the money, for what the town got in return.
“The town (is) basically getting a significant branding effort for next to nothing,” Belcher said.
She argued that other items proposed for funding, such as fire services, were county issues and not something the town board should address.
“I think everyone needs to separate town responsibility from county responsibility,” Belcher said. “The town doesn’t tax us for the fire department, the county does.”
Other residents asked the board not to wipe out what they saw as two years of work.
“It appears the event is being covered so the lack of oxygen will snuff out the fumes,” Weddstock committee member Sharon Saunders said. “We secured five radio stations and a tv station to sponsor it this year. The bands are already booked. “Starting from scratch is not a successful way to hold an event.”
Council member Werner Thomisser echoed the pro Weddstock statements, saying he felt it gave the town a good return on investment.
“Where can you get a $250,000 return on a $20,000 investment?” Thomisser asked. He cautioned the rest of the council that getting sponsorships is a difficult business.
The vote was 3 to 2, with Davidson breaking the tie.