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Gospel Fest taken off the 2016 schedule


Did you know about Gospel Fest?

The City of Apopka budgeted for it. They planned for it. They built a website, and they set a date.

But Gospel Fest will not happen this year. The City Council would not even make a motion to vote on it after they learned the details - particularly the date of the event.

The idea for Gospel Fest sat innocently in the Consent Agenda as item #6 during the City Council meeting yesterday. It was one of seven action items that are typically routine and voted on as a whole. It was labeled as “Approval to enter into an event service agreement with Roar Music, LLC". Roar Music would have been the promoter for Gospel Fest.

But it quickly became an item of contention for the commissioners.

“So where are we at on the planning?" Commissioner Kyle Becker asked Apopka Recreation Director David Burgoon. "We’re sitting here on October 5th, and it’s scheduled for November 12th. It just seems like a tight deadline.”

"We’ve been planning for this event for the last few months, Burgoon answered. "Waiting for the budget to be approved."

Mayor Joe Kilsheimer explained the delay and why the need to wait on the budget being passed was necessary.

“We didn’t have budgetary authority until October 1st," he explained. "So we brought it to Council as soon as we possibly could. But we’ve been planning Gospel Fest for some time now... so we need to make that commitment that we’re going to hold that event this year.”

Commissioner Doug Bankson expressed concern during the budget workshops about Gospel Fest, and those concerns still existed.

“I really am troubled by moving forward so fast on this," he said. "I think it’s far too short a time to put on a successful event. I think we’re throwing money away to rush it. Maybe we could back-off and re-configure this event. I have great concerns about it.”

The commissioners had a lot of questions about the timing of the event and who the performers would be. Kilsheimer and Burgoon responded.

“We don’t have the budgetary authority to sign the contract," said Kilsheimer. So we can’t say who it is until we sign a contract and have security. If we don’t agree to spend the money, we don’t have a nationally recognized group. It’s a chicken or the egg thing."

And Burgoon explained the timing and performers was related.

“The acts we are looking to sign are available on this date," said Burgoon. "We already moved this event from October to November."

“What’s our advertising strategy for this?" Becker asked. "What do we need to do to get critical mass to an event like this? Assuming that Council approves this…you’re good to go, you’re funded? What’s next?”

"We will start the whole marketing campaign with radio ads, newspaper ads, the whole nine yards," said Burgoon. "We’ve had conversations with radio stations… everything is waiting for this today. We are equipped to make it a success. There is a little bit of buzz out there from the people we’ve talked to.”

Commissioner Billie Dean was not convinced.

"How is it you are equipped, and you only have a month to advertise? If we’re spending the taxpayer’s money, it needs to be a success. And the way it’s going, it’s going to be a complete flop.”

“We’re going to hit the ground running with all the advertisements," said Burgoon. "Most events typically start their advertising 4-6 weeks out, which is the time frame we are in.”

“You’ll have to hit the ground flying," Dean shot back.

“There is a train with a head of steam that is working to pull this event off," said Kilsheimer. "In the realm of scheduling festivals in Florida, the weather doesn’t reliably break until October 15th. We had a small window of October, and then the holidays. And we’ve moved it twice that I know of… because we had conflicts with other events. The staff has worked diligently to bring this event to Apopka. It’s also good to get one under your belt when running events…get one done and have one that you can learn from, get feedback. We need to get one under our belt so we know how to make it extraordinarily successful.”

Commissioner Diane Velazquez pointed out the holiday weekend that Gospel Fest was falling on, and how that might impact attendance.

“November 11th is Veteran’s Day and there are usually so many events going on around the city to celebrate our veterans," she said. "So you’re talking about the very next day having the confidence that the public will come out for Gospel Fest?”

“I’m fairly confident we can get the people to come out," said Burgoon.

“When we had Chris Young at The Old Florida Festival how much in advance did we announce? Velazquez asked. "Because I remember the buzz… that park got filled because of him.”

"We made the commitment to Chris Young in June of 2015, and we were not permitted to announce him until August," answered Kilsheimer.

“And we had the festival when?” Velazquez asked.

"In February," said Kilsheimer.

“You see the time frame?” Velazquez asked.

"But we had the money reserved in the budget," said Kilsheimer. "We had the legal spending authority. We have held to the absolute letter of the law in terms of trying to bring forward what we could bring forward. My recommendation is let’s go with what we’ve got. Let’s get one under our belt and then let’s figure out how to make it a statewide event.”

But the pushback continued from the commissioners.

“The best minds in planning planned it for October," said Bankson. "But because there wasn’t funding nothing was said and now it’s pushed up against the wall to November and it feels like a size 8 foot in a size 6 shoe. I would say let’s go back to an October timeframe if that’s the best time of year to do it. Let’s do it in 2017."

Becker returned to the idea of November 12th being too soon to effectively market Gospel Fest.

“We’ve got this weekend which is going to be consumed by the hurricane," he said. "The weekend this event is scheduled is Veteran’s Day… which is a long weekend. People obviously have holiday plans. So there are a lot of factors that go into getting the amount of people we want to get to be successful and to warrant having it year-over-year. So that’s what I struggle with."

“Okay. Here’s what I’m hearing," said Kilsheimer "We’re not going to do Gospel Fest this year. So let’s pull item #6."

Kilsheimer took one last shot at making his case for Gospel Fest during the Mayor's Report, but after the discussion ended he was unable to receive even a motion from the four commissioners.

"I just haven’t heard a compelling argument here today that’s going to lead me to believe that this thing is going to be a huge success," said Becker.




Gospel Fest


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