Blues and Jazz Festival seeks assistance from Town

November 3, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

Having recently celebrated a hugely successful 15th annual event in the community, members of the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival executive told Town Council on Monday that they need more money if they are to continue hosting the long-time musical extravaganza.

Event founder Larry Kurtz was joined by festival President Josh Leitch as the pair informed Council that increased costs in 2017, particularly relating to security, were proving to be problematic. Mr. Kurtz asked the Town for $15,000 to help offset some of the bills he expects will rise again in 2018.

“We have a great festival here in Orangeville, but there’s no guarantee that it can continue. We have to work hard to ensure that happens,” Mr. Kurtz said. “As the event itself becomes larger, our costs are going up. In 2017, our security costs increased by 300 percent. That is a cost beyond our control, we need some help.”

The organization spent a shade over $22,000 on security in 2017. A portion of that security force was made up by Orangeville Police Service officers. In total, the event posted expenses of $277,000 last year, while revenues reached $286,000 – thanks in large part to almost $195,000 in various government grants and business sponsorships. Mr. Kurtz told Council that it would be irresponsible for the executive committee to rely on such extensive contributions moving forward.

“We’re asking for a small contribution here from the Town to help continue our legacy here in Orangeville and keep this thing going,” Mr. Kurtz continued.

The Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival has helped to put the community on the map in the musical world. More than 250 artists from across the globe came together to make this year’s 15th annual event the “biggest and best” yet, according to Mr. Leitch. As one of the community’s two big outdoor events over the summer months, along with the Orangeville Rotary Ribfest, the Blues and Jazz Festival brings “significant” economic benefits to the community. In 2017, it is estimated that spending within the community reached as much as $1.3 million over the busy weekend.

“There is no doubt that Blues and Jazz is an Orangeville success story,” Mayor Jeremy Williams proclaimed, before indicating he may be willing to help the festival out financially. Coun. Nick Garisto also voiced his support, stating, “I know exactly what Blues and Jazz brings to this town, absolutely no question”. He did, however, suggest that Mr. Kurtz and Mr. Leitch also approach the County of Dufferin for additional funding. In 2017, the County provided $2,500 in support of the festival.

Coun. Sylvia Bradley highlighted the commitment the Town currently has with Blues and Jazz, providing in-kind work through its Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments. “There is a monetary value to that,” Coun. Bradley stated.

Pointed to increased costs in security, Coun. Bradley asked exactly what the festival had done to incur those costs. Mr. Leitch informed Council that since the festival had extended its licensing area by roughly 300 percent and were informed by OPS that it would need to triple its security coverage.

“That was mandated,” Mr. Leitch said. “It was something we just had to do.”

Coun. Don Kidd asked if there was anything Orangeville Police could do to help alleviate some of these costs. Mr. Leitch told how the local force had waived a 15 percent administration fee, totalling approximately $1,500 last year, although they indicated that would not be forthcoming in 2018. In total, the OPS portion of security costs is expected to breach the $10,000 mark next year. Coun. Kidd suggested that Mr. Kurtz and Mr. Leitch approach the Orangeville Police Services Board with a view to reducing those costs.

“I’d like to think there was some way OPS could waive or at least cut back some of these costs,” Coun. Kidd said.

Council agreed to refer the group’s request for $15,000 to its grant program. An official decision will be made at some point during budget deliberations, slated to continue next week (Nov. 6). One final suggestion, put forth by both Coun. Kidd and Coun. Gail Campbell, was for the Blues and Jazz Festival to go back to its old system of taking donations at the gate as opposed to charging a flat fee per guest. This was the first year a fee, $5 for adults, had been implemented, much to the chagrin of area residents. Mr. Kurtz noted that addition had raked in approximately $21,000, whereas the previous system of taking donations averaged out to around $2,300 per year.

“We never, ever wanted to have a charge, but this year it was something we just had to do with costs increasing,” Mr. Kurtz said. “We can look into finding other ways to subsidize (those costs).”

The 2018 Blues and Jazz Festival is pencilled in for three days next summer, running from June 1 to 3. There will be four stages in downtown Orangeville, featuring 90 acts. For more information, visit

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