May 30, 2020

Parking fee eyed for Folk Festival

BANGOR – Though the American Folk Festival will be an admission-free event like its predecessor, the National Folk Festival, attendees who choose to park their vehicles at Bass Park can expect to pay a small fee.

Motorists who park at Bass Park will be charged $5 a day, or $10 for a three-day pass, festival organizers said Monday, during a meeting with the City Council’s finance committee.

During the session, festival organizers sought and received tentative approval for an agreement with the festival board for the use of parking spaces at Bass Park.

The agreement, subject to full council approval, calls for allowing the city to lease the grounds to festival officials at no cost, though accommodations will need to be made to ensure Penn National Gaming Inc. has access to parking for patrons of its off-track betting facility in the Bangor Raceway grandstand.

With three years of festival planning under their belt, organizers have programming and logistical matters well under control, Executive Director Heather McCarthy said during the meeting.

“But the challenge of raising approximately $1 million a year to keep the festival free is our ongoing challenge,” she said.

“We want to keep this event free of admission … and we hope this will be a palatable way to raise money for the festival,” she said.

Councilors were supportive of the concept.

“I think this is an event we certainly do want to keep in Bangor,” Councilor Susan Hawes said.

In their letter to the finance committee, McCarthy and Brad Ryder, chairman of the festival’s board of directors, pointed out that the fundraising goal for this year’s event is $1,039,000.

Of that total, they hope to raise $275,900 in “earned income,” through a variety of means, including the “bucket brigade,” beer and wine vendor fees, application and booth fees for food and craft vendors, ice sales to vendors and, for the first time ever, parking fees.

The balance of the money is coming from local donors, including corporate and business sponsors.

Based on Bass Park’s estimated weekday capacity of 2,500 vehicles and weekend capacity of 7,500, Ryder and McCarthy project potential earnings of $37,000.

They noted, however, that the total will depend on how many patrons buy the three-day passes, which would reduce earnings.

In addition, they plan to have Republic Parking, which operates the city’s parking garage at Pickering Square, manage the parking fee system for a $4,500 fee, plus 10 percent of revenues over the $35,000 mark. They have pegged their parking income at $25,500.

Another parking option is the city’s parking garage, which will be charging a flat rate of $4.50 a day for festival parking, garage manager Parke Clemons said in response to a question from Councilor Dan Tremble.

Councilor Geoffrey Gratwick asked if festival organizers had considered offering valet parking for a premium.

McCarthy said not yet.

“I think, honestly, we’re trying to find ways to do it as simply as we can for this year and refine it as customers demand,” she said.

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