Financial problems are threatening to turn New Albany’s Freedom Celebration concert weekend into a shadow of its former self.
Organizers are expected to decide by Friday whether to cut the event, scheduled for July 1-2, back to a one-night concert on Saturday night.
Phil Nanney, executive director of the Union County Development Association, which stages the event for the city, said it takes more than $20,000 to put on Freedom Celebration. Only $250 in private donations has been raised so far; the city contributed $5,000 from tourism tax money.
It costs about $10,000 to rent the stage, lights and sound system for the weekend. Another $8,000 goes to the talent, $3,000 for gospel groups for Friday, and $5,000 for Blues entertainers for Saturday, he said. The remaining expenses include a variety of expenses, including promotion.
Our own Sam Mosley and the Mosley & Johnson Band with the Muscle Shoals Horns is scheduled to headline the Saturday event, as they did last year.
We think having an annual Blues concert in New Albany is important, and showcasing Sam Mosley and his group is the fitting thing to do. We are less certain whether a holiday weekend in the middle of summer is the optimum time.
The high cost of stage, sound and light rental also is a stumbling block to staging concerts here. The city has no permanent stage or amphitheater, which means any concert is expensive before the cost of booking the performers is even considered.
Reducing the event to a single night this year may be the best solution. But the city, and organizers of Freedom Weekend and RiverFest, may need to look at a long-term alternative to ongoing equipment rentals.