A 29-year tradition attended by tens of thousands of people each summer in Fishers has come to an end over financial issues.
The Fishers Freedom Festival has been terminated, event organizers announced late Wednesday.
“The decision to terminate the Fishers Freedom Festival was made after many considerations, but is unavoidable due to financial circumstances,” Festival Board President Don Dragoo said in a written statement. “We want to sincerely thank all of our past sponsors, donors, vendors, residents, city staff and volunteers that have supported us over the past 29 years.”
The annual Fishers Freedom Festival has taken place on the last full weekend of June at Roy G. Holland Memorial Park since 1989. Residents and out-of-town visitors flocked to the festival to see the annual parade and fireworks, among other attractions.
This event typically drew about 50,000 attendees, 130 juried fine art and craft exhibits, 80 business booths, 30 food vendors, 20 games booths and 14 live entertainment performances annually.
In August, the Fishers City Council, with the support of Mayor Fadness, decided to discontinue all grant money and in-kind services to the festival.
The council selected 13 local not-for-profit organizations to split $331,000 in grant money, but the festival was not one of them.
From 2008 to 2016, the festival received a financial contribution from Fishers of $85,000 annually and in-kind city staff support from the police, fire, parks, maintenance, and public works departments.
For the 2017 event, the city reduced its contribution to $45,000 and in-kind services.
Organizers say the festival’s current annual budget is about $329,000. Replacing the $45,000 financial contribution plus the in-kind services would cost an estimated $125,000, organizers said.
Fundraisers, donations and sponsorships aren’t enough to cover that expense, organizers said.
Organizers said the festival and its annual food drive have been responsible for providing almost a million dollars in scholarships, school supplies, food and support to not-for-profits and needy residents.
“The festival has given the City of Fishers a sense of place and identity and has been a considerable contributor to the quality of life in Fishers,” organizers said in a letter.
Fishers said in a emailed statement that it would work to preserve some parts of the event, including the annual parade.
"The City of Fishers is grateful to the Fishers Freedom Festival Board of Directors and volunteers for their years of service in creating a great community tradition," the statement said. "The City of Fishers and the Parks and Recreation department are dedicated to honoring the Festival’s tradition in future events, including the annual parade."
Fishers said the festival was receiving half of the city's not-for-profit grant budget, plus in-kind services, in an amount equal to 10 percent of the Fishers Parks and Recreation budget.
"Through the application process, [the festival] was unable to demonstrate fiscal independence, and the nonprofit committee felt it was best to allocate the grant dollars to benefit multiple nonprofits in an effort to help a greater number of residents," Fishers said.