Wet December didn’t drown Christmas Festival

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Financials show festival stayed afloat

By Juanice Gray, jgray@natchitochestimes.com

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Despite December being one of the wettest in recent history, the Christmas Festival financials did not drown.

The Historic District Business Association (HDBA) released the festival income statement Wednesday, Feb. 5. The Christmas Festival showed in the black in the amount of $58,489. Of that, $25,000 reimbursed the City for labor and security and $25,000 went to the HDBA. The balance of $8,489 is listed as restricted funds for improvements for the 2019 festival. “No funds leave the festival,” said Festival treasurer Lee Waskom of Waskom Enterprises.
The 2018 festival did not fare as well as the 2017 festival, mostly from declining revenues due to inclement weather and additional expenses. Fear not, attendance was still good and going into this festival year, the Christmas Festival has a reserve of $200,000. Main Street and HDBA Director Jill Leo said some of the additional expenses last year were to purchase two additional snow machines and supplies, a money counter to expedite the cash flow and an unexpected $2,000 additional fee for reindeer once the state banned bringing in reindeer from out of state. Leo said the reindeer were not a big moneymaker in and of themselves, but they did draw in people who wanted to see them. Santa just might have them back next year.

Another new expense was restroom maintenance. With the addition of the restrooms near the Santa House came the need for more monitoring, especially on Saturdays. The street level restrooms were also maintained, monitored and cleaned.
The floats were redone, through no small amount of volunteer labor.
Saturday, Dec. 8 was a rainout for all intensive purposes, however, ticket sales only reflect direct festival revenue and fireworks attendance was down that day. Attendees spent the day indoors at businesses and restaurants generating revenue in the form of sales tax when they made purchases.

The 2018 festival generated $808,178 in revenue. Dec. 22 was “a good weekend” according to Waskom. Total income was generated from festival tickets, gate receipts, advance armbands, corporate sponsors, vendors, the parade, bus and RV rentals, merchandise and more. Tickets generated the most, at $412,710, gate receipts festival day contributed $125,000 and gate receipts on extra weekends added $66,880. Corporate sponsorship was up and more tour buses had reserved parking.
Of the $808k total, $602,478, or roughly 75 percent of the funds raised stay in the parish. These funds were paid to non-profits, local riverbank vendors, security, personnel, business services, entertainment, future enhancements such as floats and the cooperative endeavor agreement between the city and HDBA. In addition, the fireworks are now local through Craig George.

Leo and Waskom stated the ticket sales keep the festival self-funding. Waskom said, “As rainy as it was, we are thankful of these financial results. We hit our financial goals and we can prepare for next year.”