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Summer Festival Ticket Sales increase

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Summer Festival ticket sales increase

Weather blamed for smaller Top of the Park crowds, but unexpected 14-percent jump in Power Center series may help finances balance out


News Arts Writer

Dance legend Mikhail Baryshnikov can still pack ’em in. So can political satirists The Capitol Steps. That’s the report from Ann Arbor Summer Festival Executive Director Evy Warshawski, who said this year’s 20th edition of the event was a hit, recording a 14 percent increase in ticket sales over last year.

A total of 18,802 tickets were sold to the 19 Summer Festival Power Center shows, she added, which translates into translates roughly $568,000 worth of receipts. That’s about five percent over what was estimated as needed to break even, although “not all of our expenses are in as yet.”

Two performances by Baryshnikov, another two from Capitol Steps and also a live taping of the National Public Radio show “Wait, Wait ... Don’t Tell Me” sold out.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Trinity Irish Dance Company, Peter Schickele with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, and one of two Shangri-La Chinese Acrobats shows were also big hits, selling more than 1,000 seats each (out of approximately 1,350 available seats at Power Center).

Doc Watson drew around 900 attendees, while dance troupe Momix’s evening show, Nadja Sonnenberg with The Assads, and Orchestra Baobab “sold in the 800s.” Taken as a whole, “we are very pleased,” said Warshawski.

“Call it cabin fever, call it staying home for the summer, but we had excellent momentum for the Power series this festival. We had waiting lists for Baryshnikov and Capitol Steps.

“Two shows are still being mentioned to me: Orchestra Baobab and the Django Reinhardt New York Festival. These were what I call ‘sleepers’ ... That means you should have been there because those who were will tell you what you missed.”

The Django show drew only around 700 attendees. Also drawing in the 700s were comic jugglers The Flaming Idiots, jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater and a cappella quartet The Nylons.

The annual festival, which ran June 13-July 6, also included the free, outdoor component Top of the Park, attendance at which Warshawski said was down slightly due to inclement weather.

“While we had no complete rainouts, we did have nights in which either the bands had to stop playing or the movie screenings had to be stopped. The rain threats and storms did cut down on attendance and subsequently, on revenue that could be generated through beverage sales,” she said. “People see clouds and they get worried, especially when they have little kids.”

Although the exact number of TOP attendees is not tallied, she estimated that attendance didn’t quite reach last year’s estimate of 50,000. Strong sales of the Power Center shows “may be used to help balance any shortfall at Top of the Park,” she added.

Fund-raising kiosks brought in $4,316, down by $1,300 from last year. “Pass-the-hat” contributions totaled $3,354, down by $300, Warshawski estimated. Tent parties, which also generate revenue for the TOP, remained flat.

There were fewer small corporate donors this year, and nightly sponsorships were down as well, she added. Corporate sponsorship, grants, fees, food and beverage sales all help to defray TOP’s approximately $230,000 in costs.

Warshawski said she is working lining up “anchor donors” and an endowment aimed at making Top of the Park less dependent on good weather for its revenues.

“We need a financial cushion out there. The formula of ‘huge crowds generate huge revenues’ doesn’t work when you have rainy nights,” she said.