Thursday, July 09, 2009

Despite recession, Summerfest attendance rises slightly

Despite difficult economic times, attendance at this year's Summerfest totaled 835,679, a slight increase over last year, festival organizers announced Thursday.
Just as important, the festival produced more revenue in key categories, compared with last year. And it remained profitable.
According to preliminary estimates, combined revenue - derived from gate and concert ticket sales - and the sale of food and beverage exceeded last year's totals by 2.7%.
A specific dollar figure was not immediately released.
"Considering the extraordinarily difficult economic times our society has been faced with for many months now, we are pleased with our 2009 preliminary results," said Don Smiley, president and CEO of Milwaukee World Festival Inc. "We spent more money on musical talent and created numerous new value-based programs to ensure we would deliver on our promise to our customers that the event would be affordable to all, and they responded enthusiastically."
"Though we are all feeling the effects of the economy, our numbers remained solid, which demonstrates Milwaukee's amazing passion for Summerfest," added Dan Minahan, chairman of the board of Milwaukee World Festival Inc.
In 2008, before the recession began to deepen, a total of 831,024 festival-goers showed up at the lakefront.
This year, there were concerns ahead of this year's festival that Summerfest would feel the impact of the recession. Yet Summerfest officials declared that this year's results were consistent with their objectives and business plan.
"Summerfest's 2009 attendance increased by 4,655 to 835,679 over last year's attendance of 831,024, and was within the range of 825,000 to 900,000 that Milwaukee World Festival Inc., planned and budgeted for," officials said in a news release.
The slight boost in attendance was in contrast to the turnout this summer at Taste of Chicago. Over the weekend, Chicago organizers said approximately 3.35 million came to Grant Park for Taste of Chicago's 10 days, down from about 3.5 million last year.
Summerfest runs as a nonprofit under the name Milwaukee World Festival. The corporation's goal is to generate a profit of $2.3 million this year. The festival's fiscal year ends Dec. 31.
Heading into Summerfest this year, officials said it was a tough year for finding new sponsors. In addition, local companies cut back on their business-group purchases.
However, Smiley and others said they tried to focus on marketing and strategy for this year's festival. For example, spending on talent on ground stages was increased 7.8%. Also, Summerfest sponsors offered consumers free or discounted admission promotions on many days of the 11-day festival.