By Mike Pearson, News staff
It was a weekend of highs and lows at this year’s TD Festival of Friends, but general manager Loren Lieberman said it’s too soon to tell whether a strong Sunday was enough to keep the annual free music festival in the black for another year.
“We had a terrible Friday, terrible Saturday, Sunday night was great and Sunday day was okay,” said Lieberman.
During Sunday August 12, Lieberman estimates up to 50,000 spectators visited the festival at the Ancaster Fairgrounds, culminating in one of the top five days in the event’s 37-year history. But festival organizers stopped taking attendance estimates during the unrelenting downpours on Friday and Saturday when crowds were noticeably smaller.
“We do not concur with the notion that our venue has anything to do with the lower attendance,” said Lieberman.
2012 marked the festival’s second appearance at the Ancaster Fairgrounds following a 35-year run at Gage Park.
With no ticket data to analyze, festival staff examine factors such as ATM activity, beer sales, parking revenue and electricity use to gauge attendance.
In any event, Lieberman said all suppliers and contractors are being paid in full, regardless of the event’s lowered revenue expectations. If festival organizers are forced to address a revenue shortfall, the only wiggle room for next year’s event will come from contract staff positions.
The non-profit festival received grants of $85,000 from the City of Hamilton and $75,000 from Tourism Ontario. More than 25 corporate sponsors also support the event, including flagship sponsor TD Bank.
But Lieberman pointed out that performer fees make up the festival’s biggest expense, at an estimated $250,000.
In terms of value, guests who attended this year’s event would have received between $400 and $500 in actual performance value, based on what concert-goers would have paid to see the performers in a ticketed venue.
The B-52’s, Sunday’s headlined performer, recently played at Casino Rama, where tickets sold for $80.
The B-52’s and electro-pop singer Lights, who both appeared Sunday evening, were the two biggest draws for this year’s festival.
Lieberman said the rain was more intense than the conditions the event saw in 2008 at its previous home in Gage Park. With few sunny breaks on Friday and Saturday, concerts were delayed and viewing areas were a muddy mess.