No 2013 Bayfest a “blow”; Revenue Canada figures show event lost cash two of three years

Lady Antebellum, at Bayfest in 2011.

Lady Antebellum, at Bayfest in 2011. Photo courtesy of Bayfest via Facebook

A Sarnia councilor says the suspension of Bayfest is a “blow to our community.”

Bayfest organizers announced on their website today the music festival – which has won several awards over the years – is taking an indefinite hiatus.

In a news release, Michele Stokley  says the board of directors made a difficult decision to take the break. “It’s not economically feasible to produce the festival because new sponsorship has remained relatively stagnant over the last few years but costs have increase,” she says in the news release. That includes the costs for bringing in big name bands, security, staffing, insurance and overall production.

Big name acts have graced the stage over the years including Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Rush, Kid Rock and Iron Maiden.

“The decision to suspend the festival was not made lightly but one made to remain fiscally responsible to Bayfest Festival of Performing Arts,” says Stokley, acknowledging the economic impact of the event to the city and the charities which it supports. Harmony for example makes money by cleaning the grounds during the event.

Figures from Revenue Canada show the festival had been having a hard time since gaining charitable status in 2009.

Courtesy of Charity Focus

Courtesy of Charity Focus

In 2009, Bayfest donated $56,923 to registered including Lambton College for a scholarship program and $10,000 for Harmony for Youth. Bayfest took in $4,143,281 in total revenue, including $142,221 in sponsorship money – most of that money went to pay for the acts booked. The event actually lost nearly $91,000.

In 2010, was better. The event brought in $4,908,526 including the other charity events run under Bayfest banner. That year there was $432,251 in government funding and $176,339 in sponsorship money. Bayfest was able to distribute $89,000 to charities, including Lambton College, Harmony and St. Clair Child and Youth. The event made about $86,000 that year.

By 2011, Bayfest secured a $547,343 government grant but the revenue generated from the concert series dropped dramatically because of poor economic conditions with $3,712,792 total revenue reported to Revenue Canada – including that government grant. Bayfest racked up $3,754,500 in expenses after giving a total of $24,000 to Harmony and St. Clair Child and Youth. In all the concert event lost $41,708.

Figures for 2012 were not available from Revenue Canada yet.

Anne Marie Gillis, who represents Sarnia on Tourism Sarnia-Lambton’s board of directors, was saddened and disappointed by the news saying in January she understood Bayfest was still slated to run in 2013. But she was not surprised noting last year’s event was scaled down from previous years.

Gilles says Bayfest was a “guaranteed week” for local businesses “Everything was booked, everything was packed.

“This is going to be another blow to our community,” says Gillis.

Stokley says Bayfest will continue to hold its smaller events to support charity including the Yellow Hat Open Golf Tournament.

And while Stokley did not put a time frame on a return of the concert series, she says they hope to be back. “This isn’t the end; it’s an opportunity to refocus and re-invent.”

Gillis hopes so. “I wish them all the best of  luck because this is one of the events which highlights Sarnia-Lambton. We can’t afford to lose things like this.

“I think it is an indication of the times,” Gillis added. “The entire economy we’re drawing from – Northern Michigan and Detroit, Lambton County, Toronto and London…they’re spending money very, very gingerly. This was the one thing on their list and now it is gone.”