The City of Fishers and the Fishers Freedom Festival both recently announced that the Fishers Freedom Fest would be no more, as the city will no longer be providing funds to the nonprofit organization.
This year, the Fishers City Council established a Nonprofit Grant Committee to evaluate the city’s nonprofit organization support.
According to a press release from the City of Fishers, the Fishers Freedom Festival typically received half of the city’s nonprofit grant budget and in-kind services, which is the equivalent to 10 percent of the Fishers Parks and Recreation Dept.’s budget. According to the release, “through the application process, FFF was unable to demonstrate fiscal independence, and the nonprofit committee felt it was best to allocate the grant dollars to benefit multiple nonprofits in an effort to help a greater number of residents.”
Brad DeReamer, a member of the city council and the Nonprofit Grant Committee, said that a festival such as Fishers Freedom Festival should be able to be ran with a lesser cost. Without the $85,000 in funding and in-kind services, FFF said it could not continue. Yet, the nonprofit had two positions on payroll – Executive Director Jennifer Kehl and her assistant, Kym Greiner. Kehl’s payroll was eliminated for the 2017 year and Greiner’s position would not exist if the festival had chosen to continue in 2018. The combined payroll for Kehl and Greiner was $83,000, $2,000 less than what the city provided each year. DeReamer said that as a businessman, it seemed the festival still would’ve been able to put on the event from a monetary perspective if those paid positions were eliminated.
“Some of the thinking comes from that if you can grant money to more individuals that help more people in a city, that’s what I think we should be doing,” DeReamer said. “The Riley Fest in Greenfield is a five-day gestival run by a volunteer organization and a part-time secretary for payroll. The payroll for the Fishers Freedom Festival for a two-day festival did not make sense to me as a businessman, as a city councilman and as an ex-mayor. When I got elected in 2015 (to Fishers City Council), I sat down with the festival (staff) and told them nothing personal, I knew it could be run at a lesser cost and I would be voting no (to funding) in 2018.”
According to a press release from Fishers Freedom Festival, the festival’s current annual budget was $329,000, and the lack of city funding would cost an additional $125,000 to make up for the lost contribution from the city as well as the in-kind services such as police, fire, parks, maintenance and public works departments.
From now on, the Fishers Parks and Recreation Dept. will put on a Fourth of July festival.
“We are very proud of the Fishers Freedom Festival’s positive community impact that contributed to Fishers’ overall quality of life,” stated Festival Board President Don Dragoo. “The decision to terminate the Fishers Freedom Festival was made after many considerations, but is unavoidable due to financial circumstances. We want to sincerely thank all of our past sponsors, donors, vendors, residents, city staff and volunteers that have supported us over the past 29 years.
“I know the city is wanting to take a different direction with the festival,” he added. “We really wish them the best in their endeavor.”
The Nonprofit Grant Committee awarded $331,000 in grants to support Ascent 121, Cherish, Conner Prairie Museum, Geist Half Marathon, Hamilton County Leadership Academy, Hamilton County Youth Assistance for Fishers Youth Assistance Program, Hamilton Southeastern Schools Foundation, Janus Development Services, Nickel Plate Arts, Spaceport Exploration, Youth Mentoring Initiative, the City of Fishers Neighborhood Matching Grant and the City of Fishers Tree Matching Grant. According to the release from the city, these nonprofits provide cultural and critical services for residents.
“We are excited there’s going to be new leadership and a new vision (for the festival), and I think we can grow it bigger than what the group had done and they did a great job,” DeReamer said. “We think we can make it much better for citizens.”