Festival's finances show scuffs

A large crowd gathers around the stage at Bootfest in Victoria.

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City officials rallied around Bootfest on Tuesday despite hearing how the event did not break even financially.

According to the city's report about the event, Bootfest lost money for the sixth year in a row.

In 2016, the city of Victoria lost $70,464, the second largest amount in the festival's short history.

While Bootfest's Saturday night attendance from19,000 to 21,000 was the second largest crowd in the event's history, said O.C. Garza, city of Victoria spokesman, Friday night's attendance of 4,000 to 5,000 was the lowest in the festival's six-year run.

"I think the weakness in the oil and gas economy hurt attendance and beer sales," Garza said. "I think there were also some high school football games and events we were competing with on Friday night that might have hurt attendance."

The festival's 2016 beer sales were $105,480, down from $125,365 in 2015. The cost of a beer during the festival went up from $4 in 2015 to $5 in 2016.

During his report Tuesday to the City Council, Garza said the city's attendance numbers for the festival were conservative and that daytime attendance numbers were not in the figure.

Overall, in 2016, 23,000 to 26,000 people attended the city of Victoria's free two-day festival, down from the 28,500 to 32,000 reported in 2015.

Bootfest's 2016 revenues were $217,942, down from $235,738 in 2015.

Hotel stays for the festival in 2016 went up to 645. In 2015, the city reported 362 hotel stays for Bootfest.

Garza said the boost in hotel stays was due to youth baseball and softball tournaments in Victoria the same weekend and hotels that offered "Bootfest special" rates.

Bootfest received a $100,000 subsidy from the city of Victoria's hotel occupancy tax fund in 2016. In 2017, Bootfest will not receive a $100,000 HOT fund allocation, Garza said.

The city recently reported Victoria's hotel tax revenues down 26 percent for 2016 so far.

For six years, the festival's expenses have exceeded its revenues. Bootfest has relied on HOT fund subsidies to stay in the black.

The festival applies its $100,000 HOT fund allocation to its annual loss and banks the difference in a reserve fund. Bootfest banked $29,552 in 2016 after spending $70,464 to make up its revenue shortfall. In 2015, it deposited $46,431.

The city will rely on $259,209 that it has accumulated in its Bootfest reserve fund during the past six years to put the festival on in 2017, Garza said.

The city has lost $357,413 to put on Bootfest during the past six years. And the city has subsidized the festival with $616,548 over those years.

The festival cost the city $2.88 per person in 2016, according to the city's finance report about the event. In 2015, the city spent $1.78 per person.

Revenues from vendors setting up shop at the festival went from $13,000 in 2015 to $18,700 in 2016.

Garza attributed the increased revenues from vendors to increased fees the city charged them for this year's Bootfest. Garza said he did not expect vendor fees to increase in 2017.

Labor costs, much of it to provide security for the festival, went from $50,410 in 2015 to $62,978 in 2016.

"Given what has happened around the world and sometimes in the United States at some of these events, safety is not cheap, but again you can't overrate how safe a festival has to be," Garza said.

Overall, sponsorships went from $147,330 in 2015 to $155,406 in 2016.

Garza said he believed Bootfest had provided a hidden economic benefit to the city. He also said the event served as a catalyst and template for other groups and entrepreneurs in Victoria to pursue HOT funds to bring and host events in the city.

"This is the city's festival, I know some people don't like the fact that we spend the amount of money in HOT funds we do," Garza said. "I don't think it's a coincidence all of this (other events accessing HOT funds) has happened since Bootfest started."

Garza said when he moved to Victoria 22 years ago, he heard a lot of complaints from area residents about how there was nothing to do in the city.

"Now try to find a free weekend when there are not competing things going on in town," Garza said.

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