Fishers organizing new event to replace Freedom Festival

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The city of Fishers on Tuesday announced a new event to replace the Freedom Festival—a 29-year-old summer celebration that was called off last year over financial issues.

Called “Spark!Fishers,” the new festival is scheduled to run June 29-30 and is expected to include many of the traditional events that were part of the Freedom Festival, including a parade, fireworks and a 5K run and walk.

The city said Spark!Fishers will also include a street fair featuring food and entertainment, and a “national concert” at the newly renovated Nickel Plate District Amphitheater.

“When the city decided to spearhead a summer event in the Nickel Plate District, we wanted to create something community-led, first and foremost,” Fishers’ Mayor Scott Fadness said in a written remarks. “Spark!Fishers pays homage to the rich history of our community while celebrating how it has and will continue to ignite our future.”

Spark!Fishers is being overseen by honorary co-chairs Fadness, Hamilton Southeastern Schools Superintendent Allen Bourff, Conner Prairie CEO Norman Burns and recently retired Southeastern Program of Recreational Team Sports Executive Director Lynda Carlino.

The festival is being organized by seven committees that include 80 community members working with 20 city employees, the city said.

A budget for the festival is still being set, but should come together in the next month or so, a city spokeswoman said.

The annual Freedom Festival had taken place on the last full weekend of June at Roy G. Holland Memorial Park since 1989. The event typically drew about 50,000 attendees, about 200 arts and business booths, dozens of food vendors and game booths, and numerous live entertainment performances.

In August, the Fishers City Council, with the support of Fadness, decided to discontinue all grant money and in-kind services to the festival, which had an annual budget of about $329,000.

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 said replacing the $45,000 financial contribution plus the in-kind services would cost an estimated $125,000. Fundraisers, donations and sponsorships wouldn’t be enough to cover that expense, they said.

Fishers said the festival had been 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.

The city said it decided to quit funding the Freedom Festival because the organizing not-for-profit was “unable to demonstrate fiscal independence.”

The city said it would share more information about the new festival as details are solidified.

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