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Posted on Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 6:02 a.m.

Elvisfest's future in question after shift in management, loss of seed money

By Tom Perkins

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include additional financial information provided by Depot Town Community Development Corp. Director Erik Dotzauer. Earlier, the story was updated to include the fact that the Depot Town Community Development Corp. will provide Elvisfest with a $1,000 sponsorship.

The Michigan Elvisfest as it's currently known may have taken its final bow.

The future of the annual festival in Ypsilanti's Riverside Park is in question after the corporation that oversaw its finances recently opted to stop funding the event. But that group, the non-profit Depot Town Community Development Corporation, is keeping approximately $44,000 that was in the Elvisfest’s bank account.

Some volunteers who organized and operated Elvisfest are upset they aren't receiving any of the money and contend those funds were at least in part generated through their efforts in running the festival.

The event cost approximately $72,000 to organize last year, and the roughly 20 core volunteers are attempting to raise part of that amount in time to hold it in some form in 2011.

“I was not real happy about what happened, especially since the money came from ElvisFest profits at some point,” Elvisfest Director Mary Decker said of the money in the ElvisFest account. “I still don’t understand it, but I think they want (Elvisfest) to succeed, they just don’t want to do it themselves. If that’s really, truly what they’re saying, it would be nice if they could give us at least some money. It would make our lives a little easier, but either way, we're going to proceed.”

Records show the Elvisfest remains profitable, though all parties involved say revenues have been declining in recent years.

CDC Director Erik Dotzauer emphasized Elvisfest revenues and other money the CDC generates belong to the corporation — not the volunteers or the Elvisfest. He said the Elvisfest is a fundraiser that raises money for CDC projects, and the event's organizers were always aware of that.

The CDC, whose parent company is the Depot Town Association, shares those revenues and other fundraising dollars among the initiatives it undertakes, Dotzauer said. The CDC's core mission is improving and promoting economic development in the Depot Town area.

"The money raised by the Elvisfest was not 'The Elvisfest's' money or (Decker's) money," a statement from Dotzauer and CDC board members read. "It was always the DTA/CDC's money. This has always been the case. Any other assertion made contrary to these facts amounts to a deliberate falsehood."

Dotzauer said the Depot Town Association provided funds — although a sum much less than $72,000 — to start Elvisfest 11 years ago. He added the corporations, not the volunteers, assume the risk of the festival losing money.

Decker said the volunteers aren't paid and have taken care of the event's operations and management. That includes arranging the entertainment, vending, food and beer sales, managing volunteers, arranging the VIP section, renting what’s needed for physical infrastructure, providing security and ticket vendors and setting up stage and sound.

Decker said she and several other volunteers work with the CDC to manage the budget, and the CDC collects the money and handles the finances. The Depot Town Association managed the Elvisfest’s finances until it created the CDC three years ago.

Income for the two corporations is drawn largely through festival revenues and charity events.


The future of the Elvisfest is currently in jeopardy.

file photo

In recent years, the Depot Town Association and CDC have undertaken efforts including renovating the Depot Town caboose, managing popular events at the park, installing the Cross Street clock tower and repairing the deck on the Huron River. The group briefly took over parks from the city maintenance and management until a dispute ended that arrangement.

A Depot Town Association financial statement shows the organization has lost $23,000 through October. Dotzauer, who reports to the Depot Town Association as the CDC’s director, said that financial situation prompted the CDC to reconsider holding Elvisfest.

Dotzauer said the approximately $44,000 pulled from the Elvisfest bank account will go into a reserve account and earn interest for other projects. He said the CDC is preparing several new efforts for 2011. Among them is a program that will help attract and retain businesses in the Cross Street corridor, but Dotzauer said it's too early to offer details.

The largest CDC fundraising initiative was launching the Michigan Roots Jamboree two years ago. According to Depot Town Association financial records, the rock and bluegrass festival lost $6,000 in 2010 — it brought in $42,200 but cost $48,000. Dotzauer said the financial statement doesn’t include some sponsorship money the Jamboree has yet to receive, and he estimates the event turned a profit and made more than the Elvisfest.


The financial statements listed the Elvisfest expenses at $72,000 and revenue at $78,000.

But Dotzauer said that statement doesn’t provide a complete picture of the expenses and revenue for the festivals. Spreadsheets he provided show Elvisfest made $3,771 and the Roots Jamboree actually made $2,253 this year. The document indicated the Elvisfest profit included $2,000 from the sale of a trailer after the festival.

Dotzauer said the CDC chose to cancel the Elvisfest instead of the Roots Jamboree, despite the $12,000 difference in revenue, because festivals typically see a spike in attendance and profits in their third year. He said he expects this year’s Jamboree to post significantly better numbers.

Dotzauer also pointed to corporate sponsorships. Financial records indicate the Elvisfest brought in $500 in sponsorship revenue, while the Jamboree received $6,700 — which Dotzauer said will likely climb closer to $9,000. In the CDC's statement to, Dotzauer described the decision to discontinue funding ElvisFest as one the CDC "has been struggling with for years" and was necessary given the financial situation.

“For us, it comes down to a business decision,” he said. “Our goal is to promote the community and add to its vibrancy. We need to be able to make some kind of return or generate enough money without jeopardizing the health of the organization. So we made the tough decision to try to refocus the organization and try to find better use of money.”

Decker is determined to see the Elvisfest continue. She pointed out that many of the estimated 5,000 to 6,000 guests who attended last year’s three-day event were from out of town, and that equates to a healthy economic boost for the community.

She said the group has already picked up more sponsorship money than it did last year, and she's hopeful the picture will improve once ticket pre-sales start in January. The CDC will provide a $1,000 sponsorship and is allowing the new group to use all of Michigan Elvisfest's intellectual property at no cost.

“It’s going to be a challenge, especially because the economy is not that great,” Decker said. "But I know people really enjoy Elvisfest, people want to see it continue and the volunteers are helping out as much as they can. We all are pitching in and hopefully we’ll be able to get some sponsors who can provide some money or provide some things that will save us on some costs.”

Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.


Marc Perroquet

Sun, Jul 10, 2011 : 2:11 p.m.

I am very disappointed in the direction Depot Town has been going in recent years. Most of the businesses that once made the area fun are now gone and replaced with trash. What exactly has the CDC done to improve Depot Town? It rebuilt the dock. A few years ago it painted the caboose and planted a few flowers around it. They are always bragging about that clock but that has been there for years and years. No matter what the financial report may say, I attended both festivals, the Jamboree and the ElvisFest, in the past two years and I can tell you that the Jamboree drew a very small crowd both years compared to the ElvisFest. Furthermore, the ElvisFest had less turnout largely due to imclement weather, not due to lack of interest. I was at the 2011 ElvisFest and it was amazing! In spite of the CDC's efforts to destroy the event, the ElvisFest volunteers pushed ahead and under the leadership of Mary Decker, put on a fantastic event, much better than anything the CDC was ever responsible for. It appeared to me that the turn out was great.


Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 7:04 p.m.

Well, I'm glad you have provided the actual relevant information, by updating this story, instead of writing a correction, you have endured few will see the truth. This will do nothing to repair the damage you have done to the reputation of the CDC/DTA and the jamboree. But hey, as long as no one knows your articles are poorly researched and your writers ignore relavant facts, you're good, right.

Depot Town

Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 3:20 p.m.

Why won't the board meet with Tom Dodd?


Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 12:41 p.m.

@Michigan2010, your facts, much like most of this article, are not very accurate. Unfortunately, ElvisFest revenue has been trending downward over the last several years. Looking at that trend, it is not hard to predict a loss on the current model in 2011. A smaller festival with lower expenses could change that, but there are no guarantees. Jamboree, on the other hand, has shown growth over the past two years. Its trend shows potential for further growth. So does its format, which can and will be revised over time. It is much harder to revise an event which celebrates the music of one artist. You claim on capitol equipment costs is null and void. Even if the two shared some resources originally purchased for ElvisFest, that equipment was purchased long ago and doesn't factor into a yearly operating budget. Not all rental deals were leveraged with Elvis vendors. In some cases quite the opposite became true this year. And getting a two festival discount isn't very useful if you can't afford to invest in two festivals in the first place, and the CDC/DTA has decided it can't. As for drawing people to town, again, one festival has had steadily declining attendance, one has shown growth. Oh, and both festivals are staffed by dedicated volunteers who want to have a little fun while showing off their community. Many of them are the same volunteers. Everyone hopes that ElvisFest will continue and grow. The CDC/DTA is providing the group with some seed money to help it get off its feet. But the CDC/DTA made a business decision to change its direction for fundraising events. That is their choice. Oh, and with that "tucky" comment, your bias is showing.


Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 12:12 p.m.

@Cindy, @Tom, and @Tony, where is the follow up that was promised? As I've stated already, I have seen the financial records, and I have seen the emails addressed to Tom that predate this story. Comparing the festival financials vs. the yearly financials of the organization tells a completely different story than what is printed here. This article is misleading and has done damage to the reputation of these organizations in our community. It needs to be corrected with a follow up article, placed just as prominently as this one was.


Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 10:16 a.m.

Fact - Elvisfest made money, maybe not a ton in the last few years, but it's never lost money.It is a tough economy, so a few years in decline is normal. Fact - The Jamboree lost money. And, it had people dedicated to fundraising for it all year.? Let's remember, the Jamboree didn't have to incurr costs of things paid for previously by Elvisfest and they were able to make deals with Elvis vendors (using the leverage of two festivals). So, I wonder how that will work if Elvisfest is cancelled.? Fact -Elvisfest brings in out of town people and positive attention in the press and in our community that we would not normally get. The "positive" attention from the former "Ypsitucky Jamboree" is still yet to be seen... Thanks to all of the volunteers who work hard to make the event possible. I hope that all the businesses and people who gain from the Elvisfest can rally together and help make it happen bigger and better for 2011.

Steve Pierce

Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 1:13 p.m.

Mr Mckeen, If I have my facts wrong, I stand corrected, but I think you are mistaken. This is where I am getting my information. According to a filing with the MiDLEG on May 7, 2007,\2007128\00001703.tif the DTA submitted a Certificate of Assumed Name and it is signed by Gary McKeever and was submitted by Sandra French and it says the Depot Town Community Development Corporation is the assumed name for the Depot Town Association. The Depot Town Association is a IRS registered Section 501 non-profit and according to the State of Michigan, the DTA is conducting its business under the assumed name of the Depot Town Community Development Corporation. This fact is confirmed by the DTA's own website which clearly states: The Depot Town Association is incorporating its 501 (c) 3 nonprofit status into a Community Development Corporation (CDC) with the mandate to raise private and public funds for economic development, housing, parks and recreation for Depot Town and the City of Ypsilanti. Cheers! - Steve


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 1:11 p.m.

Steve, ok, now I understand what you met more clearly. I don't really disagree with you at all. I guess my point centers more around this method ( expose on, well, whatever this is suposed to be about)of making financials public. It is very misleading.

Steve McKeen

Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 12:14 p.m.

Steve and Mr. Perkins: Please get your facts straight! The Depot Town CDC is NOT a nonprofit. They are a dba of the depot town Association just like the Michigan Elvisfest is a dba of the depot town association. The depot town association is the nonprofit in question. No wonder people think they have something to hide. People have their facts wrong AGAIN!

Steve Pierce

Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 12:02 p.m.

The Depot Town CDC website says The Depot Town Association is incorporating its 501 (c) 3 nonprofit status into a Community Development Corporation (CDC) with the mandate to raise private and public funds for economic development, housing, parks and recreation for Depot Town and the City of Ypsilanti. Like any responsible organization that receives and spends private and public money, the financials should be an open book for anyone to see. Earlier posts by people from the CDC Board and staff argued that the Ann Arbor reporter used the wrong financials. Lord knows that is probably true, I sure have had my problems with reporters getting their facts straight, so I do understand. Yet, when you see posts from people saying the reporter used the wrong information and at the same time saying this matter is private, it leaves the reader wondering who really has the correct facts. So instead of leaving things to interpretation by a reporter that some may not trust, simply put the financials on the CDC website just like Washtenaw County has done. The County calls it putting the checkbook register on-line. If there is nothing to hide, in the spirit of transparency and openness there can be no harm in showing the readers and the community how money is spent and the source of that money. In fact, making the financials an open book for everyone to see would be the best way to show that the reporter did twist or use the wrong facts. The CDC should also post their independently audited annual reports on-line as well. An independent annual audit is an important part of the fiscal responsibility and stewardship of a non-profit. Cheers! - Steve


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 9:03 a.m.

Steve, not to have an argument, but all the info I've seen was provided to In fact, it was attached to dated emails in gmail addressed to Tom before this story went to print. It doesn't get much more "made public" than that. But the information was ignored in this story. Why should the CDC have to share every detail of their operation just because some residents have an axe to grind? I'm sure there are some people out there that have a grudge against you and yours, does that mean you should have to go above and beyond state and federal financial reporting? Also, I'd be willing to net that at this point, Erik would be happy to show you the statements in question, since they have been forced to make them public anyway.

Steve Pierce

Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 1:02 a.m.

I am not saying anything is bad here, but a lot of questions could be answered if DTA and CDC made their checkbook and account records open to anyone. Washtenaw County did this in the last year and it has helped to build trust because you can see right where every penny has been spent. If non board members like Andy have already been privy to the financial records and there is nothing to hide and everything is above board, make the numbers public and then support those numbers with an annual audit report from an independent third party company. Cheers! - Steve


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 5:21 p.m.

@Midtowner, one for each project or festival, and one for the organization overall. Just like you would with any business. You have to love that, even though there was no accusation of wrong doing, thats where most of the commentors have gone with it, and all of that has been just fine with It's almost like somebody had an axe to grind and used the to do it. Come to think of it, isn't most of the information in this story based on misleading financial statements provided by an anonymous source?


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 5:08 p.m.

@Steve, what you are talking about are the yearly financials for the organization. What Merrill was talking about is the airing of details about how that private company is run, and the decisions it makes. It would be something akin to you deciding to shut down a project or facet of your business because it was becoming unprofitable, and your local paper wrote an article making to seem as if you had stolen profits and arranged the books to make a weaker part of you company look stronger. In fact, all you had done was closed one wing of your operation and moved the funds from it into the parent company. In fact, It's exactly like that. I've seen the numbers. When you look at the festival financials the picture is crystal clear. The question in, Tom was provided with those numbers before the article went to print. Why did he choose to ignore them?

Steve Pierce

Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 3:07 p.m.

Merrill G. wrote: I would like to point out that we are a private, non-profit organization and are recognized as tax exempt by the State of Michigan and the IRS. These matters are all private matters that should never have been made public in the first place. We are in good standing with both the State of Michigan and the federal government and are current on the submission of all governmentally required documents. Findlaw writes: Nonprofit Financial Statements Question: Do 501(c)(3) non-profit corporations have to make their financial statements available to the public? Answer: Yes. Non-profit corporations must submit their financial statements, which include the salaries of directors, officers and key employees to the IRS on Form 990. Both the IRS and the non-profit corporation are required to disclose the information they provide on Form 990 to the public. This means that non-profits must make their records available for public inspection during regular business hours at their principal office. In addition, a number of websites make these financial statements available including GuideStar ( ) and the Foundation Center ( ). Finally, you can request a Form 990 from a specific non-profit corporation by writing to the IRS, including the name of the organization and the tax year you wish to review: Commissioner of Internal Revenue Attn: Freedom of Information Reading Room 1111 Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20224


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 2:36 p.m.

How many sets of books do these guys keep?


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 1:14 p.m.

@Tom Dodd, not only was Tom invited to meet with the board and declined, but he was provided with the financials of both Elvis Fest and Jamboree, yet chose to use yearly corporate financials that do not accurately reflect the budget of either festival.

Tom Dodd

Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 10:33 a.m.

Don't hold out for sitting in a a meeting with the CDC board. I asked for the same thing after I saw the November financial report and was told their meetings are "not open to the public." Perkins certainly is part of the "public."


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 9:19 a.m.

So, while I'm seeing all of the usual haters here, what I'm not seeing is any response from to Erik Dotzauer's accusations. So, what's the deal Tom, Tony? We have the subject of this story here telling us you chose to ignore the documented cost of both festival, provided to you by the parent organization, and chose to use a set of numbers, provided by an anonymous source, that make it look as if there is a controversy. The only response we've gotten is the snide remarks from Tom, that frankly cause me to question his professionalism. Merrill G. and Erik clearly explain the discrepancy between the numbers: Yearly corporate financial reporting as opposed to the financials of the specific festival, which span fiscal years. He has also stated that he has since met with Mary and explained that discrepancy, which changes her view of the loss of CDC support. Oh, and there's that pesky fact that the DTCDC/DTA IS providing the new ElvisFest with a seed money grant to get started on their new venture, just not the full amount it costs to produce such of festival. So, in those few comments from Erik and Merrill, the entire basis for this story is dismantled. The facts laid out by Tom become fictions. Can we please get an official response? Because it looks an awful lot like the facts were willfully ignored to create a controversial story.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 7:20 a.m.

Some of us depot towners miss the Frog Island Fest the most...Jamboree is nice but Frog Island was high holy days for us on the eastside. Nothing posted above gives me any hope for depot town's future, festivals, fun...The CDC cannot seem to stay out of the mud. Ypsi's hope is in it's people and we do not seem to be rising to this challenge. Instead we are all at each others throats...sort of reminds me of Lord of the resources (and Politics) seems to bring out the worst in us.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 5:13 a.m.

As if the crime in Ypsilanti isn't enough to keep people away, now we have all these pro-community people bickering. I think my family can continue to find other things to do than support Ypsi's messes.

Merrill G.

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 10:42 p.m.

First sorry my earlier response to @Murph should have been to @Murf Second, while I feel it is a losing battle to post yet again because anonymous posters who have nothing to lose will continue twisting words around and making baseless accusations, I also feel my integrity is being impugned and I must defend myself. RE: "Whenever an organization says they have nothing to hide, but suggests that canceling a festival with a 10 year track history is not news, you have to wonder what they are hiding. Someone should call the Michigan department of labor and economic growth and give them a head's up on what's happening here." I never said we have nothing to hide (which doesn't mean we DO have something to hide), you just made that far reaching assumption from my statements. I also never suggested that canceling a festival with a 10 year track history is not news. I am curious as to where you got that idea since it was not written, suggested or implied in the article or in my comments. Tom's article while not completely factual never took it in the directions you are trying to push the discussion. Which begs the question, what was the motivation behind the anonymous person who suggested Tom write about this and what are your motivations for the mud-slinging and innuendos you are pulling out of thin air. Seems like you have a pretty big grudge going on. I'm just not sure what the heck we did to deserve this kind of animosity. RE: "Even the most basic accounting practices they teach in high school don't allow you to claim revenue generated in 2009 against 2010 expenses like Merrill suggested when he said the Jamboree made money and Elvisfest didn't make as much money as they reported." When you are evaluating a project to see if it made money or lost money, you take all revenues generated for/by that project and subtract all expenses incurred by/for that project. If that project happens to occur over a number of months that fall between two fiscal years, the project will not be reflected in total on the corporate financials for either year. Take a large project like the reno on the Big House. It happened over a period of years. If you look at UM's financials for 2010 only a portion of the revenue and expenses for the entire project will be reflected within their 2010 financial statements. The only way to get an accurate depiction of the entire project would be to look at a spreadsheet or cost accounting sheet for the project as a whole. The festivals are no different. Finally, "Depot Town" since you're so concerned why don't you give us a call, tell us who you are and we'd be happy to answer your questions? Do you go to all the private non-profit organizations in Ypsi terrorizing them with your requests to see all their private matters and airing your baseless accusations in public? Have you knocked on the doors of Growning Hope, Meals on Wheels, Planned Parenthood, Corner Health, or any of the other great organizations that, like the DTCDC, are just trying to make people's lives in Ypsi better in some way? Just because you don't understand our decision making process because you don't have access to all the information that we have, doesn't give you the right or even the moral imperative to accuse us of lying. Your accusations might carry more weight if you had the decency and spine to use your real identity.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 7:50 p.m.

Oh My God. I cannot think of an event that is more of a beacon of our collective culture than Ypsilanti's Elvisfest. Let me get straight. It's profitable but it will be canceled so its money can be stolen by the CDC and used to pay for an unprofitable venture. I love this excuse: "Well it's profitable but the revenues have been declining." So I guess it makes a lot of sense to those believing this that the Elvisfest profits should be spent on an event that looses money. Okay so what happens to that event once the Elvis money is gone? And Merril G. Thanks for the long post and for making this whole thing more confusing. Based on the writing, I think Tom's story is more accurate. I'm with Depot Town that this is suspicious. Any non profit that says its dealings are private and should not be public will not get donations from me. The decision making in Ypsilanti is unremarkable.

Erik Dotzauer

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 4:27 p.m.

Tom, Again, you're not getting all the facts straight here. You made a number of assertions in your article that are not based upon documentation that I provided you. Instead you chose to quote financial information that was not provided to you by the DTCDC, DTA or Elvisfest. You claim that according to "Depot Town Association financial records, the rock and bluegrass festival lost $6,000 in 2010." The financial report that I emailed to you after we spoke on Tuesday very clearly stated that the festival turned a profit of $2,253. In that same email, I included the financial report for Elvisfest, which clearly stated a profit of $3,771. There was also a notation adjacent to that number which indicated that the profit included the sale of an asset after the decision to end the festival, therefore increasing the stated profit by $2,000. To that end, Elvisfest generated a profit of $1,771 in 2010. I emailed you multiple sets of financial data for the 2010 Michigan Elvisfest, which noted every check written and a complete breakdown of revenue sources. You chose to ignore those numbers. Instead you opted to rely on a less detailed financial report that didn't offer all of the necessary information. I explained this to you over the phone, yet you didn't deem it necessary to elaborate on in your article. While the financial information that you used as a source in your story is generated by the DTA/DTCDC, I'll list a couple of the reasons that it can't be used to draw a complete picture of the profit/loss. First, the report that you quoted only draws upon financial transactions that occurred between January 1, 2010 and October 31, 2010. If you took the time to look at the actual festival accounting, you would easily notice that many expenses were incurred in 2009. That accounting software also has limitations as to how expenses and revenues are recorded with respect to the multiple organizations that operate under the DTA/DTCDC umbrella. For example, the Michigan Roots Jamboree received a $5,000 grant in 2009. However, within our accounting software, that revenue is recorded under the DTCDC grants, and does not reflect in the line item for Jamboree sponsorships. I could give more examples, but I think you get the point. And that is why we made repeated efforts to meet with you and to provide a more complete understanding of the financial picture. And you declined multiple times. You also claim in your subsequent comment that I apparently didn't feel the need to fill you in on any additional details after your several (meaning 2) attempts to solicit additional information. That's funny because I responded to your email. In that response I noted, 1) the DTCDC told the Elvisfest organizers that we would give them a small donation to help out with their beginning expenses 2) there is a lot of history, context and information that you do not appear to have and 3) rather than sit down with us as we reasonably requested and allow us to provide this information, it appears that you are in a hurry to get an article out (you did tell me in our original phone conversation that you hoped to break the story Tuesday night, which led to my request for time to consult with my board and provide you with the facts).


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 2:47 p.m.

While I tend to agree this is another case of a private business in Ypsilanti having their private affairs aired in public, I thought the story was fairly balanced for That said, Tom, while you certainly had the right to respond to Merrill, your response was something far less than professional or unbiased. And you wonder why some people don't want to talk to for these "stories".


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 2:38 p.m.

Depot Town: Please explain what the lie is. At first you seemed to be saying that this was a case of bad management, now you seem to be suggesting some sort of fraud. Please explain what you are talking about.

Tom Perkins

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 2:33 p.m.

Merrill, I spoke at greater length with the board's director, Erik Dotzauer, than anyone else involved with the article. After our conversation Tuesday evening, he called the board's attorney, then called me back and asked for time to consult with the board and provide an official response. The official response offered no information that was new to me. It also asked several times that I kill the story because the CDC doesn't consider this news and it could harm their reputation. It also asked that I sit down with the entire board. I declined, but emailed and called Erik, the director of the CDC, several times asking him if he had anything further to add to our conversations. He had plenty of opportunity to fill me in on any additional details, but apparently didn't feel the need to. As for my factual inaccuracies, I do say that the money was taken out of the ElvisFest bank account, which is true by your own admission. I also follow up with a clear explanation that the money belongs to the CDC, not ElvisFest. Your comment implies that I didn't. Please reread.

Depot Town

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 2:31 p.m.

Can Mr. Perkins link all of the financial statements to the story? It would go a long way to prove whether or not the CDC/DTA is lying about their finances and Elvisfest.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 2:15 p.m.

Um, what lies? Nobody in the story said anything about lies? That was you. And lumburg, last time I looked, Depot Town had added three or four businesses this year.

Depot Town

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 2:09 p.m.

MDELEG is the state org that handles non-profits. They should be made aware of what's going on. Merrill's comments are very suspsicious. Even the most basic accounting practices they teach in high school don't allow you to claim revenue generated in 2009 against 2010 expenses like Merrill suggested when he said the Jamboree made money and Elvisfest didn't make as much money as they reported. This organization sounds fishy and I'm glad someone is exposing the lies.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 1:51 p.m.

Um, Depot Town, besides pointing out that no one "controls" Depot Town (as much as a lot of people would like to believe that, how could it be true if the two biggest businesses don't really get along so hot) I'm just curious about what MDELEG would have to do with it? This isn't a labor, energy, or liquor issue.. And yeah, before someone else points it out, I am one of the directors for the Jamboree. We were just as much at risk as Elvis Fest, and we fully support the efforts to see it continue. But really, as stated, the CDC/DTA put up the money and assumed the risk. They feel that they can't properly support two festival, and they chose to stick with Jamboree. It comes down to one issue: growth potential. Elvis Fest faced limited growth because its format is limiting and fan base is ageing. For the 2011 Jamboree, we plan to expand our music and art offerings to be more inclusive of a broader base. We still have the ability to bring in acts that "all the kids are listening to." Elvis Fest, by definition, can't move much beyond the impersonator genre. You can call me what ever name you want for saying that, but its true, and the CDC/DTA chose to support the festival they felt could grow. If we don't meet that challenge next year, we'll be next to go. A few years back, The Ark and WEMU decided they couldn't sustain the Frog Island Fest anymore. Were people decrying their monopoly on folk music and local news? Did the people demand WEMU hand over money to the volunteer organizers when they pulled out? I'm not saying this doesn't suck. I was really bummed when I found out that the CDC was pulling out, but happy that the event organizers decided to try to raise the funds on their own, as well as moving to form their own 501C3. If it had been Jamboree, we would probably tried to soldier on, too, even if we went back to the original, pre CDC involvement plan: an afternoon on the frog island ampetheater among friends. None of this is going to matter much if we can't convince City Council to recall and rework the "Festival Tax" resolution on Tuesday. Festivals will start dropping like flies, Beer Fest first. And that's no joke, just ask a member of the board of the Michigan Brewer's Guild...

Depot Town

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 12:58 p.m.

Merril G. said: "I would like to point out that we are a private, non-profit organization and are recognized as tax exempt by the State of Michigan and the IRS. These matters are all private matters that should never have been made public in the first place. We are in good standing with both the State of Michigan and the federal government and are current on the submission of all governmentally required documents." Whenever an organization says they have nothing to hide, but suggests that canceling a festival with a 10 year track history is not news, you have to wonder what they are hiding. Someone should call the Michigan department of labor and economic growth and give them a head's up on what's happening here.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 11:53 a.m.

I'm loving the substantive reporting on Ypsilanti issues that Tom Perkins has been doing over the past few days -- lengthy reports that involve interviewing more than two people, digging up and analyzing details and telling a semi-complicated story. Keep it coming, please.

Merrill G.

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 11:36 a.m.

@Murph $44,000 was not profit. That was the seed money plus the $1771 profit. And I take personal exception to your statement that we did not work, all the board members of the DTCDC and many of its advisory board members are on hand throughout the festival to work. Most of us spending the entire weekend there working. Several board membesr as well are involved in the oversight and planning of the Elvisfest so it is not just our involvement on the weekend. We are volunteers too and your implication that we did nothing to help with the festival is innacurate. I would ignore your next parapraph but I'm sure you or someone would come back and point that out. Yes, we had several partners that we recognized publically and vociferously for the Dock Renovation Project, that said we did provide our money and our staff time to oversee the project and to help pay for materials including paying the extra money that the city would not pay to give the roof of the Gazebo the beautful metal roof it currently has, rather than allowing them to go the cheaper route of asphalt shingles.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 11:33 a.m.

Too expensive. It was better when it was smaller over at Frog Island. It sounds like this festival is a victim of its own success, and also a victim of Ypsilanti's problems as well as the CDC socialist approach.

Merrill G.

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 11:26 a.m.

First of all I would like to say that we wish the Elvisfest the best of luck and hope to see it thrive under its new circumstances. The decision to stop funding the Elvisfest was one that we have struggled with for over a year, but one that we had a fiduciary responsibility to make. It is a festival that has seen declining revenues over many years. The decision to launch the Jamboree was made to give the new festival the appropriate runway to begin making a profit (which it already has) by the time we thought we might have to make the hard decision on the Elvisfest. We are using the same criteria for deciding whether to continue the Jamboree and will be expecting a significant increase in profit and revenues again this year for it to continue as well. I would like to address some of the factual inaccuracies in Toms article. I would also like to point out we made repeated offers to sit down with Tom and go over all of our financials so that he would have the complete picture. First, the statement that the DTCDC is keeping approximately $44,000 that was in the Elvisfests bank account, while true is misleading. The Elvisfest bank account is one of several bank accounts that we have to manage our operations. The money used to fund the Elvisfest was provided by the DTA/DTCDC. It is our money and has always been our money. We routinely move money around between our different accounts. Once the money was no longer required for the Elvisfest it was moved into our Reserve Account to earn interest and into the Jamboree account to fund the needs of that festival. This is something that we have always done and is no different from past years. Regarding the issue of the Elvisfest volunteers keeping the seed money, I would like offer an analogy to help people understand the context a bit more fully. Everyone knows that Bell Ringers for the Salvation Army are raising that money to give to the Salvation Army. Nobody expects the Bell Ringers to take the pot home at the end of the day to pay the Bell Ringers bills. That money belongs to the Salvation Army. In the same way, Mary Decker, as Director of the Elvisfest, was a volunteer for our organization running the festival. She and the other volunteers are and were aware that this festival was a fundraiser for the DTA/DTCDC and that the money used to fund the festival and the money raised by the festival belongs to the DTA/DTCDC. Elvisfest was created by the DTA 12 years ago and operated by us specifically to earn money for our organization. Mary is one of 5 directors that weve had over the years. Were happy that shes motivated to take what weve started and continue on. The factual inaccuracies occurred in Toms story because he insisted on using our October financial statements which do not give a complete picture of the festival financials. We told Tom this multiple times and asked to sit down with him to go over the financials so that he would have the complete picture. He did not use all the information that we submitted to him and did not allow us to explain the issues with the one statement he decided to use. There are expenses that were incurred in 2009 that are not reflected in the 2010 financials and some of our revenue for the Jamboree was recorded under a grant account that is not included within the Jamboree line items. The actual profit for the Elvisfest was $1771 and the profit for the Jamboree was $2253. Finally, the paid attendance for the festival this year was approximately 2700. It hasnt been 5,000 6,000 for several years now. This is validated by the financials and ticket revenue. I would like to point out that we are a private, non-profit organization and are recognized as tax exempt by the State of Michigan and the IRS. These matters are all private matters that should never have been made public in the first place. We are in good standing with both the State of Michigan and the federal government and are current on the submission of all governmentally required documents. Again, we wish them well and will support them to the best of our abilities.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 11:21 a.m.

Interesting that the "non-profit" Depot Town Community Development Corporation made a $44,000 "profit" without doing much. It's a shame that they are treating Mary like this after all the hard work she does to put this together every year. It almost makes me not want to patronize any Depot Town establishments (cursed Aubrees pizza!). I hope she finds a better organization to work with for future Elvisfests. If the repairing of the deck over the Huron River is referring to the gazebo and its roof, I thought that was done by students at WCC as a class/resume boosting project which meant that there probably wasn't a charge for labor, just supplies. Also, that clock tower would be more impressive if it kept the correct time.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 10:36 a.m.

Come on Ypsi, No Hurons, no Braves, and now no ELVIS.

Carole Clare

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 9:47 a.m.

The New Elvis Festival will move forward. This is the 11th year of the Festival, which was started by the Depot Town Association. The CDC has been in operation since 2006, do the math. If you want to be a Sponsor, contact Mary Decker at the Visitors and Convention Bureau.

charles mancherian

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 9:23 a.m.

The admission fees were increased too much! As a result, too many families can't afford to go to Elvisfes anymore. Lower the fees so that more people can attend and you will thereby increase your revenues. The More people, then more money spent there.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 9:06 a.m.

I love Elvisfest! I hope it survives. I went to both years of the Jamboree hoping it would get better, but the music is horrible. I hope the DTCDC reconsiders their decision and scaps the Jamboree instead. Long live Elvis!


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 9:01 a.m.

"Dotzauer said the financial statement doesnt include some sponsorship money the Jamboree has yet to receive, and he estimates the event turned a profit and made more than the Elvisfest." Dotzauer is asking us to drink the Kool-Aide the Depot Town people make him drink! There are several individuals that think they run Depot Town and its not for the benefit of the association or individual businesses! One by one businesses leave such a great area because they cant deal with certain people. Pretty soon you might not be able to get ice cream there because that business is for sale too...

Depot Town

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 8:49 a.m.

These people lost $23,000 and are canceling the one event that made money? It's a shame to see what Depot Town has become at the hands of groups like this one.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 8:49 a.m.

It would have been nice if the CDC hadn't pitted one event against the other. They most certainly did not have to choose between Elvisfest and Roots. Mentioning Roots at all was unnecessary.

Susan Montgomery

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 6:21 a.m.

I was confused by your headline - removing "challenges" seems to clear it up a bit?