By Dan Rankin
The promoter and organizer behind last year’s River Rock Music, Arts and Food Festival, Sean Camp, made a presentation to Perth South Council Tuesday evening, explaining what he saw as the huge success of the event’s first run-through and asking for funds to help make this year’s fest bigger and better.
For last year’s festival, which took place Aug. 15 outside Camp’s home and photography studio on R.R. # 1 St. Marys, the municipality donated $700 towards a potable water truck that was on site during the day.
This year, Camp is seeking $900 from Perth South for a water truck, as last year’s water bill was larger than he had expected, as well as a $1,500 “operational expense grant.”
He has also asked for just over $3,000 from the Town of St. Marys, in picnic table donations and an operational expense grant.
Thanks to Perth South’s donation, Camp said last year’s event “came through as a break-even, which is phenomenal for a first year event.” In a letter Camp submitted to Council, he said his total expenses, not counting the hours he’d put into organizing the festival, were $14,274.54. He saw a revenue of $13,690, which, combined with Perth South’s donation and product donated by Steam Whistle Brewery, helped him draw about even.
He estimated over 60 percent of those in attendance last year to see such artists as Cat Clyde and Samantha Martin and the Delta Sugar came from outside Perth County, from communities such as Brantford, Kitchener and London.
In 2016, he would like to build around the themes of local, sustainable food and art, with more local food vendors, seminars, demonstrations and workshops for all ages. He also wants to increase his budget for musical guests, sell 800 tickets (last year was capped at 500) and make use of professional tenting capable of holding between 100-200 people, which would require a permit of about $100.
The musical group Trent Severn has already committed as a co-headliner, and Stratford’s Black Swan Brewery Co. are “fully on board with us this year,” Camp said, indicating that they will bring out a special “River Rock Brew.”
Perth South Councillor Sam Courriveau and Deputy Mayor Jim Aitcheson said, while they heard positive feedback about the festival, they also heard from ratepayers who were skeptical about the idea of Perth South supporting a private event.
“The end goal of this project is not to pad my wallet,” Camp said.” It’s to give money back to the community. It’s a non-profit. The end goal, if it works and we get the support that we need, we could potentially have $10,000 going into charity organizations in the area.”
Coun. Melinda Zurbrigg commented that, even with a successful event, Perth South couldn’t receive much in the way of economic benefit as it lacks the restaurants and accommodations of nearby St. Marys and Stratford. Apart from the sales generated by local vendors who are at the festival, “there’s no spinoff to it as far as Perth South goes,” she said.
“We’re trying to keep the rate increase low, so I would struggle to do it,” Aitcheson said. “We’ve had to say no to a lot of people and we’ll have to say no to more next year.”
Council thought Camp’s proposal could appear as a line item for the public to discuss at their budget meeting that was held last night, and deferred making the decision on his request until they had begun budget deliberations.