The Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival wants Sussex County government to become a major sponsor of the popular October event to the tune of $10,000 to $20,000.
If Sussex County Council agrees to donate funds, the money would be used to expand marketing throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, said Festival Board President Dennis Santangini and Vice President Leon Gilitzin.
Following their presentation during the April 23 meeting, council requested County Administrator Todd Lawson to look at funding options, including a possible line item in the new fiscal year budget.
Santangini said the Jazz Fest continues to expand and now includes venues outside Rehoboth Beach with a major venue at Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes. In addition, this year, restaurants throughout the county have expressed interest in sponsoring events, he said.
Besides offering music by some of the top jazz performers in the nation, Santangini said the event's economic impact on the county during the four days of the festival during the shoulder season is important to hotels, restaurants and stores.
“And we want to bring more money to Sussex County,” Santangini said.
Galitzin said the organization wants to expand its marketing in the Mid-Atlantic region in an effort to attract new attendees and increase attendance back to the 25,000 mark. He said the economic downturn has reduced attendance to around 17,000 people per year.
Galitzin said the festival must expand its marketing reach to bring in more people who will spend more money in the county.
“But right now, we don't have advertising money to reach metro areas,” Santangini said.
Money from the county could assist in that effort, Galitzin said. “And part of the marketing efforts would be to promote Sussex County as well,” he said.
Considered one of the top jazz festivals in the country, the event attracts people from eight states, Santangini said.
Galitzin said it costs about $20,000 to produce each show; this year there are 20 performers scheduled to take the stage Oct. 17-24. The event brought in about $335,000 in revenue in 2012; 80 percent from ticket sales and 20 percent from sponsors. The nonprofit organization helps support Tunnell Cancer Center with proceeds from the event.
Scott Thomas, executive director of Southern Delaware Tourism, said the Jazz Festival has been nominated as one of the top 100 events in North America by the American Bus Association. He also said in 2012, more than 3,100 hotel and motel rooms were booked in Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach, which is 95 percent occupancy. “This is a key event at a time when we need it,” Thomas said.
One council member, Sam Wilson, R-Georgetown, took exception to the Jazz Festival's request. “I wouldn't walk across the street to attend the event,” he said.
Wilson asked why Sussex taxpayers should help finance an event that benefits part of the county and targets attendees from other states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania. “Who cares?” he asked. “I don't benefit from it. The average taxpayer cannot afford to help you.”
Go to rehobothjazz.com for more information.
Other organizations look to county for funding
The Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival is not the only organization that has appeared before county council asking for money.
Prevent Child Abuse gets money for workbooks
Prevent Child Abuse Delaware asked for $2,500 during an April 16 presentation to purchase workbooks for its stewards for children initiative. Council voted at its April 23 meeting to award $800 to the organization.
Kellie Turner, program director, said Stewards for Children started in Sussex County in response to the Earl Bradley child abuse case. “We need to teach adults how to protect children from abuse,” she said. “Sex abuse is preventable.”
Thirteen facilitators in Sussex County offer a three-hour course to train community groups and individuals. The training includes a workbook; that's what Turner wants the county to help fund. She said each workbook costs $10.
Councilman Sam Wilson, R-Georgetown, thanked Turner for her efforts, but he had strong words for state officials. “People don't realize how bad this is state is in legislating bad morality. It's this immorality that leads back to child abuse. It seems our legislators can't get the picture,” he said.
“There is not enough money to buy us out of this situation,” Wilson said. “It's costing taxpayers; it's like we are fighting ourselves.”
Freeman needs transportation funding
The Freeman Stage at Bayside is asking for $10,000 to help with busing for children and families to events this summer. Last year, the county awarded $5,000 to the organization. The matter has not appeared back on a council agenda.
During an April 9 presentation, Patti Grimes, executive director of the Freeman Foundation, said last year the county provided funding to transport 10,000 children to events. “You helped change lives,” she told council.
Grimes said families and children taking part in outreach programs receive preferred seating, interaction with performers and free meals.
This year's Freeman Stage calendar includes 53 stage performances and 15 outreach performances to schools and community groups. The season opened April 1 and will continue into September. Headliners this year include Lyle Lovett, Sheryl Crowe, Pat Benatar and Michael McDonald. Grimes said 65 percent of this year's event are free.
More than 40,000 people attended events last year at the Freeman Stage located near Fenwick Island off Route 54. Go to freemanstage.org for more information.
Through a series of grants, Sussex County government hands out millions of dollars each year to nonprofit groups providing services or sponsoring events as well as Delaware State Police. More than $7.3 million was budgeted in grants during fiscal 2013. Included in the grant funding is money for fire and ambulance companies, housing assistance, libraries, human service grants and the open space program. The amount has increased each year since fiscal 2010, with a 5 percent increase from last year.
In addition, each council member has $30,000 in discretionary funds – councilmanic grants – to present to groups in their respective districts. Demand has been so high this year that Councilwoman Joan Deaver, D-Rehoboth Beach, has reached her limit with more than two months left in the fiscal year. Donations in her district are being put off until after June 30.
Human service grants total more than $143,000 and councilmanic grants total $150,000.