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City responding to complaints about Cultural Arts Festival

By Mark Wineka
mwineka@salisburypost.com
Responding to numerous complaints about the Salisbury Cultural Arts Festival May 1-3, city officials are looking at adding more conditions to the process of obtaining a street festival permit.
Mayor Susan Kluttz said while city government had nothing to do with the festival, it still issued the permit, and she expressed concern about all the complaints.
Kluttz said she will personally write an apology to each person the city has heard from.
“I think people are owed some type of explanation from us,” she said Tuesday.
Planning Director Joe Morris said city representatives heard complaints by e-mail or telephone calls from “vendors and participants expressing discrepancies between the advertising, promotion and the actual events associated with the independently produced Salisbury Cultural Arts Festival.”
The nonprofit Salisbury-Rowan Cultural Arts Foundation, represented in recent months by George Busby and board chairman Thomas Morgan, put on the arts festival.
Morgan told City Council in April the economic impact of the three-day barbecue and cultural arts festival could exceed $1 million.
According to the foundation’s Web site leading up to the festival, the three days were supposed to include a juried arts show, a barbecue festival, a symphony concert, museum tours, a literary festival and a big band picnic concert.
It is “dedicated to celebrating and showcasing the cultural arts; honoring the diversity of the arts; and fostering and developing arts awareness, appreciation and education,” the Web site said.
“… You will meet authors, musicians, gallery owners, professors (and) actors from across the state in this Salisbury cultural arts festival in the ‘Heart of the Arts.’ ”
But things fizzled.
According to Morris, complaints about the festival fell into three broad categories:
– How the event was characterized, both on the Web site and through subsequent correspondence, in relation to “anticipated attendance and physical location.”
– How the event was promoted in statewide and local advertisements.
– How the event was executed in relation to some of the described programming, “which apparently did not take place.”
Morris said the city itself had concerns about the use and unauthorized modification of its own “Discover What’s Inside” brand, “as well as use of brand and trademarked identities of other agencies.”
Councilman Mark Lewis said this particular festival clearly didn’t meet the expectations of the organizers and participants. But no matter who sponsors a festival, it is still Salisbury’s reputation at stake, Lewis said.
Councilman William “Pete” Kennedy said the organizers had a great idea but lacked the experience in planning it and pulling it off.
Prior to the festival, Salisbury officials waived the 30-day notification deadline for obtaining a street festival permit and authorized the mayor to issue the permit based on the organizers having delivered a hold-harmless agreement, a certificate of liability insurance, proper business licenses for festival vendors and coordinated plans for street closings, security and site sanitation.
Morris said the city staff now recommends that the city’s “development, cultural and tourism partners” get together to establish a comprehensive review process for future festivals.
That review would require a festival organization to describe its capacity for delivering a program.
It would be asked, for example, to provide a recent financial audit, a board of directors roster, the number of members and its current status as a non-profit organization.
Morris said it would be basic information every Internal Revenue Service-recognized non-profit group maintains and freely shares.
The permit review also would require a proposed budget for the festival or event, including a promotion and advertising budget, the advertisement placement strategy, press releases, “feature article tactics” and more.
Morris also recommended submittal of a model contract between the event organizers and vendors and agreements with other agencies that are supposed to provide programming or services.
Lewis said the Salisbury community generally has had a good track record with independently run festivals. He added that Morris’ recommendations were “a great response to a sad situation.”

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