Madison tourism

Folk festival finds its sea legs for 2009

Energized committee lands
growing list of event sponsorships



(January 2009)

Read previous Don Ward columns!
Don Ward

After three years of battling budget shortfalls and other startup obstacles, the Ohio River Valley Folk Festival is finally getting its footing and seems destined for a great year in 2009 when the event returns to the Madison, Ind., riverfront on May 15-16.
Festival Chairman John Walburn has recruited new blood into his 16-member committee, and the enthusiasm is strong for taking the festival to the next level, he says. What may seem ironic is that in this time of economic uncertainty, Walburn’s committee has obtained more sponsorship commitments from area companies than ever before. What’s more, all but one Saturday afternoon musical act has been booked, including the headliners for Friday and Saturday nights.
With a sponsorship goal of $28,000, already $17,500 has been committed by local businesses. And more could be on the way, including one potential large sponsorship yet to be secured. Last year at this time, the committee had garnered only $16,000 in sponsorships, Walburn said. Those companies who have stepped up so far to become a sponsor in 2009 include Gaylor Inc., Historic Broadway Hotel & Tavern, Riverboat Inn, Madison Precision Products Inc., Rivertown Chiropractic, Auxier Gas, and Jenner, Auxier & Pattison law firm.

Madison Area CVB Logo

Madison Festivals
The following festivals operate
under the umbrella of the
Madison Area Convention
and Visitors Bureau.

• Ohio River Valley Folk Festival (May)
$69,429 income
$67,705 expenses
$1,723 net profit
Budget for 2009 = $81,000

• Madison Ribberfest (August)
$298,595 income
$279,939 expenses
$18,655 net profit
Budget for 2009 = $335,045

• Madison Chautauqua (Sept.)
$95,250 income
$93,679 expenses
$1,571 net profit
Budget for 2009 = TBD

• Nights Before Christmas Tour of Homes (Nov.-Dec.)
$30,837 income
$16,116 expenses
$14,720 net profit

• Nights Before Christmas “Nights & Nibbles” Trolley Tour (Nov.-Dec.)
$4,560 income
$3,887 expenses
$673 net profit for CVB

Source: Festival chair reports to the Madison CVB Board

“We think this will be our breakout year. We have never been this far ahead in sponsorship money or band bookings in the history of the festival,” Walburn reported to the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau at its Dec. 15 monthly meeting.
Walburn is joined by several new people on the committee who have helped save the event from possible extinction by its parent organization, the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Fred Shimfessel, Dave Auxier and Molly Dodge are among the group that strongly believes in the potential of this event to grow in the same fashion as the wildly popular Madison Ribberfest. Both events were conceived by the late Jeff Garrett, who died in October 2005 before seeing this latest festival come to fruition.
The Folk Festival operates on a $81,000 budget, compared to the 7-year-old Ribberfest, whose budget tops $335,000.
“The first year, with Jeff’s death, we got a late start and lost about $5,000,” Walburn recalled. “The second year, we broke even. And the third year, we made a little money, so we are getting there.”
Shimfessel has devised a new festival membership program that he hopes will generate about $5,000 in banner sales for the festival. Banner sales in the past have only provided about $2,200, Walburn said. Each club member will be entered in a drawing to win a custom-made acoustic guitar by Madison’s Clint Bear.
The festival is set up similar to Ribberfest, using the city’s mobile stage as the centerpiece. There are beer and wine tents, a food court and various vendor displays for the sale and demonstration of folk art products. There is also the Storytelling stage and children’s programs. Sam Bush, considered the “Jimmy Hendrix of the mandolin,” has been booked as this year’s Saturday night headliner; The Kennedys will take the stage Friday evening.

John Walburn

John Walburn

Madison CVB Board members expressed concerns about the viability of the event last summer and set down goals for the Folk Festival committee to meet by November 2008 or they threatened to cancel it. Those goals included signing sponsors and bands early, and filling the various chairs of the festival committee. Walburn assured the board he had more than met those goals.
More information and the complete musical lineup can be found at www.OhioRiverValleyFolkFestival.com.

‘A Taste of Madison’ to be revived

“A Taste of Madison” is scheduled to return in mid-March when the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Center revives the one-day event. The tentative date is Sunday, March 15. The Madison CVB board in November voted to revive the event after hearing a pitch from tourism director Linda Lytle as a way of generating additional revenue.
“A Taste of Madison” had several years’ run before with limited success but was not an official CVB event then. As in the past, tickets will be sold giving participants a certain number of taste tickets to sample the fare of various restaurants and wineries. Tickets will likely cost $40 with additional single taste tickets available for sale, Lytle said.
Lytle said she will probably schedule the event at Clifty Falls State Park lodge, but had not yet made the arrangements. More details will follow in the coming months.
Southern Indiana Arts Trail earns grant
A seven-county southern Indiana Arts Trail project that includes Jefferson County has received a $10,000 grant from the state’s Artisan Trail Development Grant program, Lytle reported to her board in December. This trail is being developed by a segment of the Ohio River Scenic Byway membership to create an arts trail that will run through Jefferson, Ripley, Franklin, Jennings, Dearborn, Jackson and Decatur counties.
Representatives from the seven counties collaborating on the new project must now come up with a match of $15,000 for the grant. In addition to the trail, the money will be used to create a 140-page, four-color paperback book. The book will provide information on each artisan, maps to their locations and will also include information about area candy stores, wineries and other unique culinary products. There is an 18-month window to complete each project.
The statewide Artisan Project was created last year by the Indiana Department of Tourism to support and promote Hoosier artisans and handmade products. The project is a joint venture between the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture and the Indiana Arts Commission. IADP recently unveiled its new logo and is working to sign up artisans throughout the state to participate in its juried arts program. Lytle said there are 85 artists already juried into the state program, but the list includes only five from Jefferson County: the Thomas Family Winery, Darlene Yarnetsky of Mudcat Pottery, photographer Matt Hicks, artist Larry Rudolech and custom acoustic guitar maker Clint Bear.
“We have 15 to 20 artisans who should be on that list, and if we are going to claim to be an artist community, we need to get more people on the list,” Lytle said.
She added that the CVB will be working with local artists to complete the lengthy application in early 2009 for the two rounds of jurying to take place next year. The process will require actual samples of artwork to be submitted next year, as opposed to just photos of the work as in the past.

Speaking of budgets

Lytle was scheduled to appear before the Jefferson County Board of Tourism on Dec. 22 to request an increase in innkeepers tax revenue to help fund the CVB board’s 2009 operating budget, totaling $339,275.
The CVB last year received $235,000 from the JCBT as part of its $330,000 budget. The 2008 JCBT contribution represented an increase of $20,000 from 2007. The CVB board also took $2,200 from the Ribberfest account in 2008 to pay for its operating expenses.
This year’s proposed CVB budget has been increased another $2,300 from festival income, plus an increase of $250 in the county’s contribution to the budget. The city of Madison, however, decreased its contribution by $1,000 to $9,000 for 2009. Miscellaneous income from such things as gift shop sales declined by $2,169.
Projected personnel expenses for salaries and insurance, meanwhile, rose by more than $5,000. The salary for the executive director was increased to $41,417. Other staff employees include the fulltime bookkeeper and group tour coordinator, and the part-time marketing director. All received cost of living increases. Also included in the personnel budget are weekend desk staff and the cleaning person.
The Madison Chautauqua coordinator remained at $24,500, while the salary of $14,000 for the Madison Ribberfest coordinator was increased by $2,000 to $16,000. The festival chairperson salaries are paid from each festival’s bank accounts.
The JCBT increased the tourism marketing budget by $10,000 to $105,000 for 2008, but it remains the same for 2009.

New board members

The CVB Board in December voted to approve the addition of Historic Madison Inc. Executive Director John Staicer to replace outgoing Joe Carr, executive director of the Jefferson County Historical Society. Also, the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce’s appointee, Brenda Eversole, is leaving the board. She is being replaced by the chamber with its past board president Kevin Watkins. As an appointee, Watkins’ addition did not require a vote of approval by the CVB board.
Staicer and Watkins will join the other CVB board members, which includes Lucy Dattilo (at large-retail), president; Renie Stephens (JCBT appointee), vice president; Andy Lytle (City of Madison appointee); Jim Crone (County Council appointee); Corey Murphy (Economic Development Partners Inc. appointee); A.J. Mistry (JCBT appointee); and Bob Schoenstein (City Council appointee).
These two new board members will take over in 2009, when the board meets for its annual January Retreat, set for Jan. 19. The winter meeting allows time for board members to review its strategies, mission and goals for the coming year.

• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: Don@RoundAboutMadison.com.


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