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Granite State Music Festival aims to raise money, keep festival in Concord

Nick Phaneuf plays with the Tan Vampires, the Dover-based band is guitar player in, during the Granite State Music Festival in Concord on June 22, 2013. Phaneuf also played with a couple of different local acts at the music festival. Between gigs and teaching music full time, he is able to pay the bills with his craft. 

(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor file)

Nick Phaneuf plays with the Tan Vampires, the Dover-based band is guitar player in, during the Granite State Music Festival in Concord on June 22, 2013. Phaneuf also played with a couple of different local acts at the music festival. Between gigs and teaching music full time, he is able to pay the bills with his craft. (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor file)

If the organizers of the Granite State Music Festival don’t raise nearly $7,000 soon, the summer concert could be forced to move out of Concord this year.

Executive Director Scott Solsky said the nonprofit could move to Manchester or another location instead of hosting the two-day event at the Kiwanis Riverfront Park, along the Merrimack River near Everett Arena.

“I love Concord. I think it’s the perfect place for a festival like this,” Solsky said. “Centrally located; it’s the capital city; it’s perfect for a festival called the ‘Granite State Music Festival.’ But it’s expensive, between the rentals and the police presence and the permits.”

The nonprofit has started an online fundraising campaign to help cover some of its costs this year. So far, it has raised about $1,125.

If the festival can reach its $8,000 goal, Solsky said the money would be enough to cover expenses at the riverfront venue. The campaign ends next Thursday.

“That would be a surefire way for us to keep the festival in Concord,” he said.

City Manager Tom Aspell said the city has been flexible in working with the festival’s organizers as they try to pay their bills.

“We’ve been trying to be very understanding,” Aspell said. “They really are a start-up group, and we do realize funding is difficult for them, so we haven’t required the dollars up-front many times.”

The festival still has an outstanding balance of $3,459 in police fees from last year’s event, Aspell said. In order to host the festival in Concord again, the Granite State Music Festival needs to pay that debt first.

“We do plan on clearing that up with the city in the next couple weeks,” Solsky said.

The city’s fire, police, code enforcement and general services departments can charge for event coverage, and the type and amount of those fees differ by event. When security is required for an event like the music festival, Lt. Timothy O’Malley of the Concord police said the city determines the number of necessary officers according to a host of factors.

“Number of people, whether alcohol is going to be served, time of day, traffic-related issues – those are the primary things they look at,” he said.

Last year, the festival estimated between 600 and 900 people would be in the crowd each day.

O’Malley said the city required two police officers to be on-site all day, and two additional officers were required to help with crowd control during the last four hours of the event.

The hourly detail rate last year for each police officer was $60 per hour, O’Malley said. This year, that rate is $64 per hour. A cruiser would cost an additional $17 per hour.

The festival has been scaled back from its first year in 2012, O’Malley said, when organizers had predicted hundreds more guests than the number that attended the weekend concerts. The police presence “looked like overkill,” he said.

“We have to go with what we’re told is expected,” O’Malley said.

But Solsky said he doesn’t think the festival requires the level of security he has had to pay for in the past.

“I think that we’re a family festival, and I don’t think we need to have the presence that we’ve had in the past,” Solsky said.

The fundraiser will also help the nonprofit spend some of its money to start a scholarship, Solsky said, which would be awarded to a local student looking to further his or her musical career.

“Part of our charitable mission is to provide a portion of our proceeds for music education proceeds,” Solsky said. “This is a way we could affect not just a whole program, but (also) have a large effect on one individual who’s driven.”

The festival has struggled to cover its costs, Solsky acknowledged, but he wants the event to stay local.

“It’s definitely been a challenge,” Solsky said. “Our first year, we learned a lot but unfortunately learned a lot at a pretty high cost.”

Last year, the nonprofit stayed afloat again, he said – but barely.

“This year is going to be an important year for us to be able to continue to go forward,” he said.

To donate or find more information, visit granitestatemusicfest.org.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

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