Taking a Stand: Freedom Festival comments

EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - I've received numerous comments on last week's Taking a Stand on the Freedom Festival.

After losing almost $300,000 this year, our stand is either to change the festival or get rid of it.

Here are some comments emailed, tweeted and posted by viewers like you.

(Comments are being shown unedited)

@EvansvilleBlog: "End it, it's not fair to the nonprofits to lose money because of poor management.

Johnny: "It is time to completely change our approach to the Freedom Festival, but elimination of the event would be a huge loss for our city.

A community wide festival needs community wide input and it needs an central event to act as it's anchor. It is time to completely change our approach to the Freedom Festival, but elimination of the event would be a huge loss for our city."

Sandy: "I know you weren't here when the Freedom Festival started.  It began very simply with a beerstube and also an area for under 21.  It was near the 4th so that it  would leed to fireworks, cost of buttons was only $1.00.

Did you know it cost $1,000.00 for a food booth to set up and then they were required to buy their ice and buns from GAGE?  It's no wonder the booths didn't make any money.

It should be more like the Fall Festival.  It would get more community involved with the booths which in turn would bring more people down town."

Wayne: "2010 Freedom Festival should have a $5.00 entry fee. Raise food booths cost to help cover the lesser entry fee.

Open all food booths at 11:00am to 11:00pm, Wednesday, Thursday. And Friday and Saturday close at 12:00 midnight.

Have local bands, talent shows and many other activates through out the nights. Make it a WEST SIDE NUT CLUB, downtown.

Ride's, games that a family can enjoy. A short fireworks and light show every night, funded by a local company. Bring in a big name talent on center stage. Have a local company pay the expense. Have company booths to show and sell anything.

Give everybody something to see and do. Give away prizes all day and night from the entry fee collected. It works in other town's and cities, why not here?"

Jason: "I agree the freedom festival was a total flop this year, there was little to know advertising before the event and doing away with the hydroplanes was a big mistake.

The thing that disappoints me the most is that Evansville had it right at one time, the nations largest celebration of freedom ending at the 4th of July, which included the parade, the closing of the water front for a couple of weeks, a lot of great vendors and new attractions such as the first annual street vault, which was completely voluntary and drew competitors from as far away as Nebraska and was told by GAGE that they were not wanted back for this years event, WHY?

Why did we stop the sanctioned BBQ tournament, which drew competitors from the Midwest! Were are the Clydesdale's?

Where is the fun of walking with your kids down on the river after the parade?  I lived in Lexington Ky for eight years and no one from there has ever heard of thunder on the Ohio, just thunder over Louisville and why because they do a pretty good job of getting the word out, I have even seen commercials for that event here in Evansville.

Why have we not supported our own events and publicized with out of town/ state agencies to get the bigger draws?  Do we think that people just stumbled across Goeble soccer complex, NO, some one had to do the leg work to attract all of the soccer tournaments I fight during the weekend on Greenriver Rd.

Evansville Has an awesome long standing tradition of great American values, such as celebrating our freedom and those who have fought and died for it why cant we seem to get it right?  Low cost admissions of ten dollar buttons for adults and kids under five for free.  Attract the bigger draws such as blues bands, Sanctioned BBQ tournaments, hydroplanes or Another boating race that is as exciting to watch, then have the City, not a private organization, run this event as if it was the most important event on the earth.

I have found that if you care then we all care and the people will come back, I believe that this event should never be done away with but instead given an enthusiastic set of legs in which to run on."

Kathy: "I have attended the Freedom Festival in Evansville since it's inception.  I believe it's been a wonderful event that has in the past drawn crowds from all around the tri-state.

Although I did volunteer this year, I was disappointed in what was offered.  The boats were not as exciting.  I would like to see the Unlimited Hydroplanes back next year.  I missed being able to go to the airport for the static airshow, the Duke Boys and balloon glow evening.

Although I agree with helping organizations have another source of fund raising, I will have to say I missed some of the previous food vendors.  There were items I enjoyed getting once a year at the Freedom Festival. I was disappointed in the lack of choices this year.  I have helped organize a fall festival booth and I know, it's very hard to get volunteers for that many hours.  I'm sure many organizations didn't have the manpower to staff another several day event.

Also, as others have said, I felt the $15.00 cost of the wristband was too high.  Other years I have purchased 4, one for each of us in our family, whether we were in town to attend or even knowing we would be out of town. At $15.00 each, I did not do that this year.

I feel another big draw back this year was the timing.  Having it the same weekend as the W.C. Handy Blue Festival had to hurt.  If people are trying to decide between a free event and one at $15.00, in this economy especially, people are bound to choose the free event.

Although we came to the Freedom Festival to hear a band, we also spent an evening at the WC Handy Festival.  At both events, we purchased food items for dinner. I will have to say the cajun food at WC Handy will take me back there next summer.

One plus to the Freedom Festival was having Big Bad Voodoo Daddy playing.  As part of the Eville Swing Cats, it was great to hear them AND be able to dance to them.  It's too bad the thunderstorms cut that short, but I understand that is part of an outdoor summer festival.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but from the talk I was hearing at work and among friends, I would look long and hard at the admission costs and not overlapping with a larger and growing event just a stone's throw away."

Vicki: "Please accept my comment as insight on wanting nothing but the best for the area.
I welcome the opportunity to be a part of change, that can enhance the foundation we currently have built:
Setting Evansville apart from the past....a movement forward

As a relative newly transplant to the area, I have had the opportunity to read and hear much of what Freedom Fest do not do rather than do for the city of Evansville.  While sharing dinner with friends this week, we engaged ourselves in robust conversation about the downtown area, Freedom Fest and other events that should bring vitality and growth to the area.

I grew up in a river town of close to 80,000 in its heyday of booming manufacturing facilities and supply plants and businesses; but as the economy changed so did the climate and demographics of my home town.  Many large corporation consolidate to out of state facilities and leaving in its wake a population of roughly 50, 000.

MY reasons for conveying to you this message of opportunity is this:

For 38 years my hometown was successful in growing a river event with festivals such the Freedom Fest; as with any business it took a good five to eight years to nurture and grow, but when it was ready to walk on its own it took off like the phoenix rising from the ashes.

My former hometown offered for 38 years:  of weeklong events beginning the last week of August to Labor Day.  To name just a few: Sternwheel Regatta, Corporate Challenges - "Anything-that-Floats races, National and World well-known 15 mile distance run that included a 5k run and walk, children's triathlon, cycling events, chili cook off, arts, New Orleans funeral parade, open-air concerts and intertube races on the river, and nightly concerts featuring nationally-known entertainers, arts and crafts, rides and attractions for the whole family.

All vendors pay a fee to participate, but there is no cost to the public.

Perhaps the most important characteristic that makes downtown special is vitality. Vitality is a distinctive excitement and activity found in a successful big city or downtown that cannot be described, it can only be experienced.  Vitality is created by the blend of historic context, centrality, density, diversity, and continuity, which you can only find downtown.

At this point and time, Evansville..like so many other cities and towns across the U.S.  isn't immune to economic woes;   festivals are a great investment. Cities big and small invest in many things for many reasons.

All significant cities invest in the arts and in festivals as well as in tourism. All invest with the understanding those things which improve the quality of life and attract and retain residents, thus build the municipal tax base.

May we need to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask:  "Is it time Evansville... to take a look at new emphasis on other events and additional corporate sponsorships that will generate funds to strengthen a failing Freedom Festival or continue to maintain the course and not look at new and innovative ways to be inspired, stimulated, challenged, moved, excited and transformed, even if it means reorganization of the people that serve on the committees?

Evansville... we have so much more to offer - create and promote the unique character we already have to forge the opportunities of our community of the future."

Feel free to leave your comments on this story.

To respond to this editorial, send an e-mail or call 812-253-0107.  You can send a letter to me at: Debbie Bush, WFIE-TV, and P.O. Box 1414, Evansville, IN 47701.