Main Street gambles with bigger Elvis Fest budget

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association has a lot riding on the 2012 Tupelo Elvis Festival.
The board on Tuesday approved a festival budget, taking a gamble that the higher quality of entertainment will draw in bigger crowds.
If the gamble pays off, the Main Street Association stands to make a profit from the event, which is May 31 through June 3.
But if the weather is bad or people don’t show up, the group could lose up to $80,000. Plus, Main Street is counting on Elvis Festival income to balance out a $13,000 deficit in the organization’s annual budget.
The approved budget for the festival has proposed income of $167,418 and expenses of $247,622, for a net loss of $80,204.
“That’s not what we expect the festival to yield,” said Jim Goodwin, the immediate past president of the board.
He reminded board members that the budgeted income does not include any money from Fairpark gate ticket sales or from beer sales. Last year, walk-up ticket sales were about $60,000, he said, and beer sales were $13,000 to $15,000.
Yet, he conceded that the budgeted loss is greater than last year.
“Half of that variance is doubling our entertainment expense from $40,000 to $80,000,” he said. “The other $40,000 is walk-up ticket sales at Fairpark. … If we have the same attendance as last year, we’ll lose about $40,000. Our goal is with the higher level talent, we’ll attract bigger crowds and do better. … We’ve painted the worst-case scenario for you, but we’ve upped our talent in the acts and we think we can do it.”
Paul Thorn is the headliner Friday night and Little Big Town is Saturday.
Main Street Executive Director Debbie Brangenberg said all the other expenses are the same from last year, with the exception of the increased entertainment costs.
The new budget comes after the board last year voted to focus on new strategies for the festival, which has returned to making a profit in recent years. The festival now features different ticket prices on Friday and Saturday and focuses on bigger country music acts in Fairpark.
If the plan fails, Main Street said it will fall back on its $50,000 rainy day fund.
“And we’ll do a hasty retreat next year if that happens,” Goodwin said.

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