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Kempenfest admission floated as way to boost revenue

'There might have to be some give and take to make the whole event successful,' says Tuckey

Kempenfest board members heard some ideas about how to stop Barrie's annual crafts festival from losing money and one idea is to charge admission to the lakeshore event.

A meeting Wednesday at St. John Vianney Church had representatives from each of the seven organizations that make up the Kempenfest board listen to a presentation from consultant Jeremy Freiburger, of Cobalt Connects.

Freiburger was brought in by the board last year to help increase the amount of money being raised while also lowering the costs.

One suggestion for boosting profit was to fence in the event, as opposed to its current wide-open entrance areas, and charging $1 or having a goodwill donation for people coming in.

“At the end of the day, with all the revenue driving elements of a festival, with the vendors, the food and so on being taken care by a core organization, I didn't want to have to go and cherry pick that revenue from one of those areas. So, I needed to create a new revenue line,” said Freiburger.

“The only option I felt was an admission of some sort." 

While there was division among board members whether that notion was acceptable, members say the festival is losing money and it has divided the group into separate camps.

John Zaba has been involved with Kempenfest through the Kiwanis Club for 20 years and the Rotary Club for five. He has worked on the finance committee for the last two years.

For the 2018 festival, he said the gate generated $63,400 while the entertainment costs were $146,400.

Zaba told BarrieToday the Kempenfest board has broken down into factions, with one side believing the Huronia Festival Arts and Crafts (HFAC) is the reason for the large attendance, with the other side claiming the entertainment is the big draw.

“In a nutshell, Kempenfest (Barrie) Inc. has lost $166,000 in the past four years,” Zaba said. “The losses have been funded by the board members, with the exception of the City of Barrie, and currently $198,000 is owed to the charities."

He said there are "substantial funds" generated through sponsorships, fees and other revenue that are "burned up by the entertainment costs."

"Half of the board are convinced that the Rotary beer gardens and entertainment are the main draw to Kempenfest, while the other half know, for a fact, that the main draw is the HFAC arts, crafts and specialty booths," Zaba said. 

Kempenfest chairman Todd Tuckey said the festival's entertainment side is an important aspect, but he also realizes there's a lot of tension on the board that needs to be ironed out.

“It is interesting because I’ve been listening to people at Tourism Barrie and the gentleman from Cobalt," Tuckey said. "What they do is handle events and festivals, and they agree that the entertainment is a major component of any event or festival."

Tuckey says he understands where the disagreement come from. 

“Everybody has their component of the event that they rely on and they take that money and put it back into the community," he said. "So they’re sitting here going ‘we want our component and we want it to be successful.' Collectively, people are having a little issue getting their heads around how to make the entire event successful versus their component.

"There might have to be some give and take to make the whole event successful," Tuckey added. "But if the event disappears then everybody loses everything.”

The board will have their annual general meeting next week.


Shawn Gibson

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