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Lewisporte council reexamining Soiree budget in light of expected deficit

Singer Johnny Reid — pictured performing at the Lewisporte Mussel Bed Soiree in 2015 — might provide a great concert experience for audiences, but the Soiree overall is experiencing a deficit that could impact future Soiree budgets.
Singer Johnny Reid — pictured performing at the Lewisporte Mussel Bed Soiree in 2015 — might provide a great concert experience for audiences, but the Soiree overall is experiencing a deficit that could impact future Soiree budgets.

LEWISPORTE, NL — The numbers are in on the 2017 Lewisporte Mussel Bed Soiree, and the newly elected town council is concerned by what they see.

Finance committee chairperson Councillor Brian Hooper provided a report at the Oct. 4 Lewisporte Town Council meeting on what the expected deficit is going to be for the August concert. While not all expenses are in yet, it is expected the deficit will come in at a loss of at least $80,000.

In 2016 the Soiree experienced a $250,000 loss, but a $200,000 GIC was applied towards that, leaving the deficit at $50,000.

With organizers already looking towards the 2018 Soiree, the Finance committee has concerns due to the combined deficit of at least $130,000.

“I heard while campaigning (for a seat on council) that there was some concern from residents regarding the Soiree deficit,” Hooper said. “We are going to have to take a long, hard look at where the Soiree is going in 2018.

“I think we are all on the same page, that if we don’t do something about it we will be in trouble.”

Recreation and Tourism committee chairperson Coun. Calvin Smart said a $650,000 Soiree budget is too high.

Mayor Berry Clarke agreed, stating, “$650,000 is a big budget for a small town.”

Smart said council is not prepared to absorb any further losses from the Soiree.

Deputy Mayor Krista Freake noted, “Surplus is great, deficit is not an option.”

Finance committee member Coun. Perry Pond said a preliminary Soiree budget needs to happen sooner rather than later.

“Look back at 2013-14, the budget was much less than what it is today,” Pond said.

Recreation and Tourism director Chris Watton said they knew the 2017 event was a “make or break” year.

“That’s why we got Johnny Reid back,” he said.

Organizers had budgeted for a concert in the park crowd featuring Reid to draw 5,000 people. In 2015 Reid had attracted an audience of 6,000 concert goers to Lewisporte.

“Another concert (announced) in central killed us,” Watton said. “Another 1,000-1,500 tickets (sold) and we would have been OK.”

Smart doesn’t think Atlantic Fest in Grand Falls-Windsor had much bearing on ticket sales for the 2017 Soiree concert. Coun. Ken Tucker noted advance sales on concert tickets were down before the concert featuring Blake Shelton was ever announced.

The Finance and Recreation and Tourism committees plan to review the budget numbers in consultation with the Soiree committee and determine what is a feasible budget for the 2018 event.

kwells@pilotnl.ca

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