Rain-plagued 2013 Ann Arbor Summer Festival looks to make up $45K shortfall
Note: this story has been changed to correct number of tickets sold.
Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com
- Related: Photo gallery: Scenes from 'So Long Sunday' at Top of the Park
- 2013 Photo Gallery by festival photographer Myra Klarman
When you hear that Ann Arbor Summer Festival director Robb Woulfe plans to be on a plane just 3 days after the 2013 edition wrapped on Sunday, July 7, you’d likely assume he’s taking a well-earned vacation, having planned and overseen, mostly over the course of just 3 weeks, 11 mainstage shows; dozens of free, live, outdoor concerts; several free outdoor movie screenings; kid-oriented activities; and additional outdoor retreats and programs.
But you’d be wrong. Woulfe’s instead traveling Wednesday to a circus festival in Montreal, hoping to see the work of international companies that might be a good fit for future A2SFs.
“I might just run away to join the circus,” said Woulfe. “ it’s fun to see how other festivals do things, and what good ideas you can steal. And if it rains, you don’t have to worry about it. You just say, ‘Oh, well, I’m off to the beer garden.’”
This, of course, stands in sharp contrast to Woulfe’s stronger feelings about the relentless streak of rainy days that plagued the fest’s second week this year.
Daniel Brenner I AnnArbor.com
The sustained string of cloudy skies mid-festival caused a high number (for A2SF) of shortened or canceled performances and movies - in total, 17.
“That’s a big number for us,” said Woulfe. “In any given season, we might lose 2 or 3, so to lose 17 was hard. You just feel bad for the artists, who are out there promoting the date. And on our end, we’re working year-round to put this together, so it hurts to lose bands and movies. It gets to be a bit much. But at least we have 3 and a half weeks to get it right. I’d be lying if I said the weather wasn’t a factor, but there was so much that was good, and so much positivity that came out of the season - it’s hard to get lost in the gray skies.”
Regarding mainstage shows, A Prairie Home Companion and Pink Martini were sellouts, while Snap Judgment and “the circus show,” Les 7 Doigts de la Main in “Sequence 8,” sold more tickets than projected.
On the down side, “we had disappointing numbers for the closing weekend, but it’s always a tough sell,” said Woulfe. “It’s a holiday weekend. And all the dance was at the very end - Trockadero and the Ira Glass project, which I wish more people had come out to see. But we were pretty strong that last week. We have a break-even model for main stage.”
The 2013 A2SF mainstage lineup sold 14,078 tickets totaling $588,248 (down from last year’s 17,517 tickets totaling $800,246), while Top of the Park’s “Give 3” suggested donations brought in $48,013 (down from $51,250 last year); the goal for the latter was $60,000, leaving a $12,000 shortfall.
However, beverage and merchandise sales were up this year, bringing in $223,108 (from $204,229 in 2012), and the total shortfall the fest needs to raise by September 30 is the same as last year’s amount: $45,000.
“In the end, I think it will shake out fine,” said Woulfe. “ A lot of people wait to get through the festival and make a gift afterward.”
Of course, scarcer sponsorship opportunities and smaller grants (like one from the NEA) play a role in the fest’s finances, too.
Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com
Tangle, an interactive event for kids, ranked among Woulfe’s personal highlights for 2013, but he also takes joy in the fest’s far subtler moments and touches.
“We added twinkle lights on the site, and it put a magical air over the whole festival,” said Woulfe. “It made it feel very special, and very unique, even though it was this small gesture. It just transformed the environment. It became a getaway.”
Another new addition was a popular mobile app, which nearly 9,500 people downloaded.
“We got feedback saying the festival could be hard to manage, and to figure things out,” said Woulfe. “ It was a nice surprise see how people got their info and discovered other things. Several people said things like, ‘I didn’t know there was yoga on the lawn, or wine tasting events.’ People tend to think of the festival as indoor shows, and townie bands on an outdoor stage, but there’s so much more. It’s nice to have a way to introduce that.”
And by the festival’s rainy end, Woulfe’s spirits were buoyed by the festival’s attendees.
“They’re so supportive,” said Woulfe. “You realize that when Sandy and Danny are singing in ‘Grease,’ and the audience is singing along while sitting under their umbrellas in the rain. You’ve got to hand it to our loyal supporters who stuck it out with us.”