Organizers of Aug. 30 event say they may need Main Street funds to help cover expenses
With 2-1/2 weeks before Rock the Harbor opens on the streets of downtown Port Washington, organizers are working to raise roughly $30,000 needed to cover festival expenses,
Port Washington Main Street board members were told Monday.
That amount will be offset, at least partially, by additional sponsorships, ticket sales and festival revenue, such as the sale of beer and other beverages at the festival tents, but
anything that isn’t covered will be shouldered by Main Street, despite repeated promises by festival organizers that the event would not be financed by the organization.
“The ideal situation is not to (need Main Street funding),” Cathy Wilger, a festival organizer and member of the Main Street board, said Tuesday. “The bottom line is we need to
raise money. But in the end, if we come up short, we may have to get some Main Street funding.
“Rock the Harbor is a Main Street event. They are not two different entities.”
Contracts for the festival were signed by Main Street, Wilger said, noting all expenses of more than $1,000 are approved by the executive committee.
The festival has paid all its bills so far, she stressed, and it will go on as planned.
“We have paid every bill to this date,” Wilger said, adding organizers continue to seek sponsorships and donations for the festival.
Main Street Executive Director Sara Grover said the organization is working with festival organizers to minimize any shortfall in revenue. However, she said, the impact could be
significant to the organization.
“Could this be detrimental to Main Street? Yes,” she said.
From its inception last year, Rock the Harbor — a Friday, Aug. 30, street festival in downtown Port Washington being held in conjunction with Harley Davidson’s 110th anniversary
celebration in Milwaukee — was touted as a stand-alone event that would bring a crowd of thousands to downtown Port.
“We’re one of the biggest (community) venues that weekend,” Wilger said, noting there will be as many as 50 vendors on the grounds, which will fill Franklin Street and stretch
along Washington Street to the lake. “When Harley riders come, they like to ride and see the area. They don’t just stay in Milwaukee.”
A number of Harley clubs have said they plan to come to the Port event, she said.
But City Administrator Mark Grams pointed out that Harley’s anniversary celebration on the Summerfest grounds in Milwaukee will host Aerosmith on Aug. 30, and there are other
large events that night.
The festival will also be competing with events held locally, he said.
“I give Cathy and Amy (Gannon) credit for what they’ve done,” Grams said. “But this isn’t a case of if you have it, they’ll come.”
The festival expenses include the cost of tents, insurance, security and entertainment.
Organizers signed country singer Darryl Worley, who has had nearly 20 hit singles on the charts, to headline the festival. Seven other musical acts will perform from 3 to 11 p.m. on
the festival’s three stages.
The festival is free, but organizers hope to sell 250 premium-seating tickets that entitle holders to a prime spot in front of the stage and their own beverage tent and restrooms.
About 20 of the $40 tickets have been sold, Wilger said, but sales are picking up.
Fundraising, particularly sponsorships, has been a challenge not just for Rock the Harbor but every event, she said.
“There isn’t a single person I’ve talked to this year in connection with events who hasn’t struggled,” Wilger said. “It’s not just Rock the Harbor.
“Are there huge sponsors? No. There are a lot of people who have donated. It’s not that they’re donating thousands of dollars. It’s what people and businesses can afford.”
Board member Scott Schweizer said the board should provide $10,000 for Rock the Harbor just as it does for other festivals, such as Maritime Heritage Festival.
“Why wouldn’t we support this as well?” he asked.
Main Street board members on Monday considered a variety of ways to cut expenses, including scaling back the event.
Cutting back the festival is counterproductive, Schweizer said, noting that it needs to have things for people to do or they will leave and spending their money elsewhere.
The event won’t be cut back, Wilger said Tuesday.
“We don’t think that’s a viable option,” she said. “What we need to do now is promote the event and get people there. Cutting back the event doesn’t help that.”
Schweizer said Tuesday he’s not concerned about the potential shortfall, saying he believes things will pick up as the festival draws closer.
“I think we’re going to make it,” he said.