Columbiana concert series in financial dire straits

COLUMBIANA – A summer program held in the park over the last two decades could be winding down due to lack of funds.

Park, Recreation and Cemetery Board Chairman Dr. Ron Detwiler confirmed this week the Concerts in the Park series isn’t doing well financially, and said the fund dipped into the red last year by about $500.

The board discussed the struggling program at the Monday meeting, continuing a conversation started in June, when it was announced the program was $800 short before receiving a $300 donation.

The fund also received some help when one concert was canceled for weather-related reasons already this summer, saving about $300, Detwiler said.

This year’s program will continue as scheduled, but future years are uncertain. Concerts are held every Sunday in June, July and August at Firestone Park and the board typically decides the night before a scheduled concert to cancel for weather reasons. If a cancellation is called performers do not receive payment, a stipulation agreed upon in each of their contracts, he noted.

“It’s been a bad summer but believe it or not the weekends have been pretty good,” he said.

Each of the 12 concerts costs about $300, and that figure doesn’t include advertising and soliciting for donations, he said.

Detwiler hopes the program won’t be scrapped, but “revamped” much like the Festival of the Arts program was, which is scheduled for this weekend.

The annual festival raises funds for the park and is organized by the Columbiana Area Tourism Bureau. This weekend marks the 28th year.

Both programs were struggling financially until a new chairman was appointed for the arts program, and changes were made, Detwiler said.

“We were very, very, very successful with it in years gone by,” he said of the arts festival. “Last year we had lost money, so last year we revamped the program.”

After appointing Nancy Tirpak as chair the board sat down and looked at where money was being lost and what needed to change.

“Every indication is we will end up in the black this year, so that is an option with this program too,” he said of the concert series.

Concerts are free to the public from 2 to 4 p.m. in the gazebo, although donations are requested. The program is chaired by Crystal Siembida-Boggs.

“From our point of view, too many times the park is oriented around sports, so when we can have programs like the arts festival this weekend or concerts in the park, we like that,” Detwiler said. “I don’t want to see that program lost. I certainly can’t speak for the board and say what they will do through this discussion, but I would lean more toward the board revamping the program, making some changes in advertising, bands, cost and things like that.”

The board will meet in September to make the final decision, but city officials will have the final say.

“We were instructed through the city to watch their funding because both programs lost money last year. If a program or a project loses money it is really hard to get approval to run it again the following year,” he said.

He isn’t sure why funding has diminished, although he has noticed fewer businesses and corporate sponsors are contributing compared to previous years.

“Does that mean we aren’t soliciting the businesses or the businesses just aren’t giving the money that they used to?” he said.

That question will likely be answered in September, he added.