Indianapolis festival seeks to erase deficit

Organizers of last year’s Latvian Song Festival in Indianapolis, which ended USD 65,000 in the red, are turning to community groups and individuals with a plea for donations.

About USD 48,000 of the deficit remains to be raised, organizers say. Direct donations and a March 1 benefit concert in Indianapolis are expected to help.

The deficit arose in large part because the number of visitors to the July 4-8 event was less than expected, Gunārs Kancs, co-chairman of the festival’s organizing committee, said in an e-mail to Latvians Online. The two largest shows—the July 6 folk dance spectacle and the July 7 joint choir concert—drew audiences of about 2,100 and 3,000, respectively.

In addition, a large number of visitors who had reserved rooms in the main festival hotels, including the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown Hotel, either failed to arrive, checked out early or moved to other accommodations. That left the organizing committee having to pay for event space that otherwise would have been free. Also lost were complimentary rooms intended for organizing committee members and some artists, Kancs said.

The Indianapolis festival’s deficit is in stark contrast to the USD 172,000 balance recorded by the 2002 Chicago festival. Those funds in 2003 were distributed to a number of Latvian organizations and cultural and educational projects, including the Indianapolis festival, according to a report by Ilmārs Bērgmanis, chair of the Chicago festival. The festival was aided by a USD 165,120 government grant to promote tourism in Illinois.

The Indianapolis festival received funding from other sources as well, including a USD 10,000 grant from the U.S. government’s National Endowment for the Arts and an LVL 7,000 grant from the Latvian government’s Secretariat for the Special Assignments Minister for Social Integration Affairs.

Some vendors and artists remained unpaid, Kancs said, but are being addressed as funds become available.

Part of the deficit has been erased by organizing committee members and many artists who had been promised free hotel rooms agreeing to cover the cost of their stay. Some organizing committee members also have donated or loaned money.

The organizing committee has placed an advertisement in the weekly Latvian-American newspaper Laiks encouraging private donations. Central and local Latvian organizations also have been contacted, many of which have already responded with donations, Kancs said.

Tax-deductible donations to erase the deficit may be sent to Mārtiņš Pūtelis, 144 1st Court, Carmel, IN 46033. Checks should be made out to “XII Latvian Song Festival.”

A benefit concert featuring the popular group Čikāgas Piecīši and the local ensembles Idvasa and Ezīši is scheduled at 6 p.m. March 1 in the Latvian Community Center, 1008 W. 64th St., Indianapolis. Admission is by donation beginning at USD 30, but children ages 14 and younger get in free.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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