Organizers reported the 2012 Saline Celtic Festival was a “home run."
Bob Rash, of festival’s organizing committee, said crowds and revenue were up at Saline’s annual summer festival, which began as a way to celebrate the city’s sister city relationship with Brecon, Wales. The festival committee will ask city council to approve July 12-13 as the dates for the 2013 event.
Early in 2011, the city-owned festival survived a 4-3 vote at the council table. Since then, organizers say, a new and more focused approach has helped put the festival on sturdy ground.
Rash told city council that more than 4,000 people attended the festival, up by 19 percent. Advance ticket sales were up 19 percent. Total ticket sales were up 15 percent. In all, the festival generated $70,000 in revenue and broke even. The Friends of the Festival non-profit group reported $38,000 in revenue and $19,000 in costs. After paying $10,000 to the City of Saline to ensure the festival broke even, the friends banked $8,285 for future use.
“It’s a real testimony to the work people put forward, to the sponsorships, to our attention to details and to keeping our expenses under control,” Rash told council. “We hit a home run.”
Rash said organizers have been busy re-inventing the annual affair for the last two years. In 2011, they did a good job, but not a great job, he said. Organizers came up with a list of goals for the 2012 festival. Rash checked them off, one-by-one, at Monday’s meeting:
· Less cost to the city
· Create a foundation to build reserves to survive a bad year
· A more business-like approach
· Better marketing
· Increased corporate sponsorships
· More downtown –related activities
· Product line management
· Application for grants
Rash said 2012 was a year of change for the festival. An impressive roster of musical groups allowed the festival to continue into the evening on Saturday for the first time.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen the music tent as full as it was during the Eileen Ivers concert,” Rash said.
New park layout that allowed festival-goers to walk around with alcoholic drinks also helped, Rash said.
The festival worked with Saline Main Street and merchants to coordinate a Celtic-inspired Summer Music Series event downtown on the Thursday prior to the event. Rash said marketing was improved with billboards up on i-94 and US-23.
Sponsorships from Ann Arbor Beverage Company, Wireless Zone of Saline and the Michigan Council of the Arts and Cultural Affairs bolstered the festival’s finances. Wireless Zone of Saline also provided $25 gift certificates to each of the 250 festival volunteers.
Rash cautioned the home runs don’t happen every year, because of the weather and other factors. He also noted that 250 people volunteered on the day of the festival and that over 2,800 of hours were volunteered. On top of that, a handful of organizers put in hundreds of hours of volunteering.
“It’s a lot of work and you have to ask, ‘at what cost?’” Rash said.
Rash said he’d like to see the event mesh in some way with Saline Main Street and the downtown community be more appreciative of the festival.
“There’s still this dichotomy between downtown festivals and the one that happens way over on the other side of town (Celtic Festival). I’d like to see that stop,” Rash said. “This is held to benefit the city.”
Rash also thanked Mayor Gretchen Driskell for her steadfast support of the Celtic Festival over the years.
“I want to offer my heartfelt thanks for all your efforts through the years. Through the festival’s ups and downs, you’ve been there every year for us, at opening ceremonies, participating in events, and you’ve been there on Sunday mornings to help clean up, which is the hardest one of all,” Rash said.
Council member Brian Marl, emcee of the event in 2012, applauded the efforts of the organizers, saying improved layouts, credit card functionality and corporate sponsorships were indicative of the improved festival.
Council member James Roth, who served on the festival’s executive committee for many years, said it’s always been heartwarming to see how many people volunteer for the festival. He said he would like a work session to go over the numbers before approving the dates.
Council member Jim Peters said many people told him this year’s festival was the best they’d ever seen.
Driskell said everyone in the city appreciates the hours that go into putting the event on.
“We’ve done the economic analysis and we know that the festival brings a lot of people here, “ Driskell said. “I like the way we continually reinvent the festival. I thought the new fencing and layout seemed risky this year, but it was really well done.”