Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival asking to retain $17,150 Town grant

July 24, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

Orangeville Council is waiting to hear back from a variety of community organizations before deciding whether to issue a recall for approximately $80,000 worth of grants it handed out at the beginning of the year. 

With COVID-19 wreaking havoc worldwide since March, almost all community events planned for the summer and fall of this year have been cancelled or drastically scaled back. As a result, local Council is starting to wonder what’s going on with the money it doled out to support 15 such events in 2020. 

This all came about after Josh Leitch, President of the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival Board of Directors, wrote a letter to Council asking that his organization be authorized to retain the entirety of the $17,150 the Town issued to the group this year to cover costs the Festival group has not been able to recoup after making the tough decision to cancel this year’s event.

“To date, we have paid out $74,316 in direct costs relative to the planning and booking for the 2020 Festival, and these were incurred from the start of our fiscal year in August 2019 prior to the Festival postponement being announced in mid-March,” Mr. Leitch wrote. “The direct costs include such items as Festival insurance fees, performers cancellation deposits and fees, contractor/staffing costs, festival scheduling and volunteer software, advertising, website and general administration costs.”

The local Board does have a plan in place to recoup the losses incurred through the cancellation of this year’s Festival. As well as the $17,150 it’s asking from the Town, the Festival has received $15,000 from TD Bank, $10,000 from Central Counties Tourism, $10,000 from the Orangeville Business Improvement Area, $9,100 from Canadian Heritage and $3,000 from the County of Dufferin. The group will also be taking $10,066 from its cash deposits to make up the shortfall. 

“In order for us to reschedule and produce a Festival in June of 2021, we must address our potential financial losses for 2020 due to the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr. Leitch wrote. “While the Festival has taken the appropriate steps to reduce or eliminate much of the 2020 pre-production costs, we must turn to our funding partners for financial assistance so that the Festival can move forward on a sound financial basis.”

As noted by Coun. Lisa Post, Dufferin County Council made the decision to recall much of the community grants it issued in 2020. As one of the main organizers of the annual Celebrate Your Awesome event, she knows all too well how much of an impact COVID-19 has had on community groups and events in recent months. 

She expressed her frustration, on behalf of Mr. Leitch, that more of the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival’s vendors weren’t willing to return deposits, or have them carry over to 2021. She would go on to ask if the Festival would consider the $17,150 as something of an advance for next year’s event, or whether they would be back again in 2021 asking for more funds. 

“Would we come back to once again partner with the Town for the 2021 Festival? The answer is absolutely yes,” Mr. Leitch said. “We are asking the Town, again, as a partner, for $17,150 to help us go back to the planning table in September 2020, and, along with all of our partners, put on an award winning festival in 2021.”

Coun. Post said the municipality had to be careful about setting a precedent by making an immediate decision regarding the Blues and Jazz Festival request before hearing from other community grant recipients about what they plan, or want to do with their own community grant funds. 

With this in mind, Coun. Debbie Sherwood made a motion asking Town Treasurer Nandini Syed to reach out to all 15 grant recipients to find out what their intentions are. The motion was approved unanimously. Ms. Syed will provide a report to Council highlighting the responses she receives at a meeting later this summer.

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