By JOHN T. WARD
The music was a hit, but the cash registers rang out a sad song at the Red Bank Rockin’ Country Music Festival last month.
The two-day event in Marine Park drew only 10,000 to 12,000 paying customers, compared to a similar number who typically show up for the single-afternoon International Flavour Festival in the White Street parking lot in April, Red Bank RiverCenter executive director Jim Scavone tells redbankgreen.
Combined revenue from the gate and from beer and win sales came in at slightly under $80,000, roughly tracking the gross from the International Flavour Festival. “But this time, we had two days worth of expenses,” Scavone said.
As a result, “there won’t be a profit for RiverCenter,” Scavone said.
But he said the downtown promotion agency will honor its commitments to the Red Bank Public Library Foundation, the Red Bank Volunteer Fire Department and the Red Bank Charter School, which were promised a slice of the profits for mustering volunteers to work the festival.
“The RiverCenter board is ensuring we’ll make donations to those charities,” Scavone said. “They really stepped up for the event.”
The nonprofit RiverCenter, he said, typically ends the year with a modest surplus, and the board will try to project how 2014 is shaping up before determining how much to donate.
So what went wrong? It wasn’t necessarily the first-time spotlighting of country music, at least going by the reactions of those who paid their $5 admissions. Scavone said the lineup was roundly praised.
But the event, over the June 28 and 29 weekend, fell on what turned out to be a couple of gorgeous beach days, which may have kept potential fairgoers elsewhere.
“A little cooler and a little cloudier would have helped,” said Scavone. Graduation parties also may have bitten into the event, he said.
But vendors, including owners of about a dozen Red Bank restaurants and dessert shops, said the crowd just wasn’t spending.
Tom Fishkin, owner of Readie’s Delicatessen and vice chairman of the RiverCenter board, said he grossed just $50 more over the two days than he did at Flavourfest.
Other vendors groused to him that too many fairgoers were bringing in their own coolers with food, Fishkin said.
But banning coolers isn’t the answer, said Fishkin. “If they’re not allowed to have coolers, they’ll just eat before they get here,” he said.
Scavone said the board will reassess both the festival theme and its place on the calendar before deciding whether to bring it back next year. The country music theme replaced 2013′s Sippin’ on the River, which showcased Red Bank restaurants and featured local rock and jazz acts.