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Hamilton music festival organizers ‘scrambling’ to deal with provincial funding cuts

Hamilton music festival organizers say they’re “scrambling” after learning they won’t be receiving any provincial funding this year.

Speaking on Global News Radio 900 CHML’s Scott Thompson Show, Supercrawl organizer Tim Potocic says they received $275,000 from Celebrate Ontario 2018 but on May 31, he was told their funding has been completely cut for this year’s festival.

Potocic says organizers had expected to get less this year, but when they hadn’t heard anything by April, they started to worry.

“As every week went by, I got more and more nervous,” said Potocic. “Across the province, festivals were nervous. Because every week that goes by makes it harder to deal with any kind of deficit or reduction that you’d have to deal with.”

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READ MORE: Hamilton’s music industry braces for impacts after Ontario Music Fund cut in half

Robert Rakoczy, general manager of the Festival of Friends, also found that the timing of the funding cut announcement was a “shock” to him and his fellow organizers.

“It’s the timing that is the biggest issue, we’re finding,” said Rakoczy, adding that the festival has been getting money from Celebrate Ontario for 10 years. “To have it, last minute, on a Friday, with 70 days to go to our event and even fewer days to go for a few other events … it causes a lot of consternation.”

The Festival of Friends has been receiving amounts in the range of $50,000 from Celebrate Ontario over the past few years. Rakoczy said the fraction of their budget that figure represents can vary based on the weather, which can have a huge impact on an outdoor festival.

“It’s possible that it rains three days and that money becomes 30 per cent of our budget. Or we have a great day where everyone shows up, we park lots of cars, the midway’s great, we sell a lot of beer, and it becomes 12 per cent of our budget. … It’s like a gamble with any festival. And that’s why having a stable income from something like ‘Celebrate’ is very important.”

Both Potocic and Rakoczy said the cuts will not be felt by concert-goers and will affect internal operations rather than the entertainment aspects of the festivals, including the lineup of musical performances.

“The last place we’re ever going to cut is on the main draw, which is our headliners,” said Rakoczy. “If we cut that, then we might as well just pack the whole festival, because no one’s coming.”

READ MORE: Supercrawl returns to downtown Hamilton for 10th year

Potocic said organizers will be looking at other means of cutting costs for Supercrawl, including finding supplier discounts, looking into getting more sponsors, and asking Hamilton city council if it can provide any assistance.

“There will be no changes to the event that anybody would see,” said Potocic. “All of our performances are already booked, our production is booked, we’re moving forward.”

Both Potocic and Rakoczy also stress that their festivals will remain free of charge to visitors.

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