The Paducah Symphony Orchestra and Barbecue on the River organizers are at odds over the future management of the September event’s beer garden. The summer festival lasts three days in downtown Paducah and draws some 40,000 people and an estimated $500,000 to area charities.
The PSO has managed the beer garden for 19 years and bankrolls some of the proceeds as a fundraiser for the non-profit. The agreement with organizers requires the PSO pay a $1,000 fee to operate the beer garden and 10% of the net income from the three-day event. BBQ on the River Inc., which operates the festival, notified the PSO in late January that the its services will no longer be needed for the beer garden. BBQ on the River Board Member Carol Gault says the amount of money coming back to the festival organization had decreased.
“It was a business decision,” said Gault who also serves on the Paducah City Commission. “We needed to make some changes to help the festival because it cost money to run the festival.”
According to PSO funding reports, after expenses, the beer garden netted $31,376 and paid the festival $3,204 in 2012. In 2013 the symphony netted $29,436 and paid BBQ Inc. $559.
Executive Director Daniel Sene says to the general public it looks like the payment to the festival went down significantly. But, he says the symphony incorporates into its expenses the costs for an exclusive fundraiser called “Porkstock,” which lowered the payment to the festival. Before that event’s expenses were deducted from the symphony’s payment it owed BBQ $4,137 in 2012 and $3,943 in 2013. Sene says the 2013 payment to BBQ was much lower because Porkstock was much more successful that year. You can see the PSO’s financial statement regarding the Beer Garden here.
Sene says with a 19-year relationship with the festival he felt more notice was necessary before revoking something the PSO counts on for funding. Gault says that there is a possibility that the festival may bid out the beer garden services and that the PSO is welcome to bid on the contract. She says the Symphony has been a great community partner and, “hates that this may be infringing on the relationship between the festival and the symphony,” Gault said. “My fear is that this is being portrayed as a vendetta against the symphony.”
But Sene said, “It seems like it is a money grab on their part.”
Barbecue Board member and CPA Mike Karnes said that no one is getting rich off the festival. He says in 2012 the festival lost $35,000 due to bad weather. In 2013 he says the festival netted $65,000.
Sene says the PSO has written festival organizers regarding their decision to end their relationship with the beer garden, but he and his organization want the city to step in. He believes the city isn’t holding the festival accountable to the established non-profits who have been operating there for years because BBQ has been delinquent filing its returns to keep its 501c-4 status. Karnes said the non-profit status has been revoked, but he plans to file returns soon to have the status reinstated.
Following this week’s city commission meeting PSO board President Roger Truitt mentioned the issue to the Commission and hopes to discuss it further with city leaders and BBQ board members.