By Barb Brouwer
Special to the Observer
A nearly sold out 2022 festival, a solid bank account and great plans for ROOTSandBLUES 2023 were the focus of the Salmon Arm Folk Music Society AGM on Jan. 18.
Praising executive director David Gonella and artistic director Kevin Tobin and staff for an outstanding year, treasurer Brenda McClellan said there were so many highlights it was hard to point to one particular success that resulted in such a great financial year.
“The highlights on the Statement of Operations (Profit and Loss) show notable changes from 2021 in all areas as 2021 was an online production,” McClellan said. “The focus was then on comparing 2022 to the last festival year which was 2019.”
Total revenues in 2022 were $2.53 million, with 2019 being $1.89 million, for an overall increase of $640,000. Notable increases include:
• Ticket sales topped $1 million (2019 - $671,000), the highest recorded in recent history, and perhaps the entire festival history;
• Grant revenues were higher at $630,000 (2019 - $390,000), showing ongoing support from local, provincial and federal granting agencies;
• Vendors and merchandise sales were just under $350,000 (2019 - $280,000); and
• Contributions from the community, which were slightly down, having been impacted by ongoing economic recovery in our community, topped $200,000.
As expected, the cost of the festival increased, with total costs being $2.1 million as opposed to $1.8 million in 2019, for an overall increase of $330,000 in 2022. After two years of not holding an attended festival, all costs for operations were impacted. Notable increases include: the cost of performers jumped from $400,000 to $500,000, while venue and equipment costs increased to $530,000 from $360,000.
Gonella explained that in March last year the board and festival staff decided to take the event live while making sure a third online Altered States program would be ready if mass meeting restrictions were imposed again.
“Although we were proud of the virtual festivals, we were ready to return to reconnect with the volunteers, many of whom are close friends we have shared wonderful RB experiences together,” he said, pointing out that organizers quickly discovered the funds in place to produce the last live event in 2019 would not be sufficient in 2022 due to inflation, higher costs and labour shortages. “This all added up to the 30th annual being the most expensive event in the history of our organization.”
But several funding partners stepped up and allowed organizers to:
• Develop an Indigenous youth co-ordinator and hire Kenthen Thomas to lead the organization’s Truth and Reconciliation efforts, with guidance from Joyce Kenoras.
• To help lower greenhouse gas emissions, organizers were able to complete a Generated Reduction project that allowed the removal of four diesel generators.
• Cashless service was provided at the box office and beverage gardens. Reduced cash transactions contributed to a safer and healthier interaction between patrons and staff and volunteers.
• A grant from PacifiCan and the Tourism Relief programs will help the Folk Music Society support local off-season event organizers, including the upcoming winter festival, Indigenous programming, small hall concert series and the Live Music Capital of BC project plan.
“The outlook for the organization over the next six months is positive with the understanding we must be ready to adapt,” said Gonella. “We are grateful to have a resilient organization with the capacity and support from the community to continue to program the 31st Annual Roots and Blues Festival this upcoming August.”
Early in his second year as artistic director, Tobin reviewed the 2022 festival and the changes he made to mitigate some of the challenges produced by Covid and other operational challenges.
These included creating a slate of predominantly Canadian artists, showcasing Indigenous artists, securing artists with mainstream recognition and eliminating the Thursday night Barn Stage concert in favour of taking the action downtown with a free kick-off concert. As well, sponsorship was provided to Salmon Arm Pride, Salmon Arm Fair Countryfest and Wednesday on the Wharf.
Last year’s almost sold-out festival featured 36 performances by 307 performers from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, 12 workshops, 12 performances at the Indigenous Plulk’W Stage, seven Tuned Up and one Kick-Off concerts.
Tobin thanked his artistic team and support he received from Ted Crouch, something he plans to include for the 2023 festival.
“Off-season program opportunities provided an opportunity to re-engage our audiences and stakeholders, support artists, technical crews and local venues and generated goodwill,” said Tobin.
Tickets for the 31st Roots and Blues Festival, which plays out Aug. 17 to 20, are available at rootsandblues.ca
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