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Austerity cuts into the fun

St. Petersburg events will lose $222,000 in city backing. The big ones will survive, one observer says.

By LIBBY NELSON, Times Staff Writer
Published October 21, 2007

Cliff Bostwick cooks St. Louis cut spareribs at the Desperado's BBQ & Rib Co. stand at the third and final day of Ribfest 2005 at Vinoy Park.
[Times (2005)]
When Washington Mutual announced a donation of $12,000 to the St. Petersburg Santa Parade on Thursday, it was like Christmas in October.

Mayor Rick Baker and City Council chairman Jamie Bennett donned Santa hats for the announcement. Preschoolers posed behind a cutout of a sleigh in front of City Hall.

The parade, though, is one of almost 100 events the city co-sponsors and one of many to feel the snip of funding shears this year.

Though not all co-sponsored events received city money, those that did had their funding cut to save $222,000 from the 2008 budget. City events retain their co-sponsorship and the use of the city logo.

MainSail Arts Festival will be looking for other sponsors and doing increased fundraising to compensate for the loss of $11,000 in city funding, volunteer committee chairwoman Lisa Wells said.

"Really, we've never had to make any great effort in regard to fundraising," said Greg Fisher, MainSail performing arts chairman. "However, that's probably going to change."

In the past two decades, the city has made an effort to commit to artistic and cultural events, said Fisher, who has worked with artistic and cultural events in the city for more than 20 years.

"The city has recognized that the arts can contribute and have a positive impact and influence on not only the people who live here, but also brings people in, regionally or from the state or nationally," he said.

The larger events like MainSail are less likely to suffer because fundraising and finding additional sponsors will be less difficult, he said.

"It'll be events that might be in their infancy, in their first or second year, that because of city funding or co-sponsorship were able to get started," Fisher said.

"That's my fear, that the fledgling, the new ones that are just getting started, and the marginal ones, might not be able to make it if they don't have that."

For some co-sponsored events, the city provided only services - police and fire coverage, or assistance with parking and roadblocks for street events.

BungalowFest by Moonlight, a tour of the Kenwood neighborhood, had never received funding, said Stephanie Jones, who obtained the event's co-sponsorship.

Because they weren't getting anything in return, though, the organizers opted not to use the city logo on materials, Jones said.

"It was more trouble than it was worth," she said.

Though Fisher said he understands the need to save money, he thinks cutting fine arts programs is detrimental to the city.

"I understand how finances go, and budget cuts, and we've got to have police and fire departments, but the arts are the first thing to go," he said. "Arts contribute to a city's overall health and well-being, so I hope the city can recognize that's not the way to go about it."

Libby Nelson can be reached at (727) 893-8779 or


City contribution in 2007:


Where are they making up the money?

Could not be reached

Santa Parade

City contribution in 2007:


Where are they making up the money?

Washington Mutual


City contribution in 2007:


Where are they making up the money?

Still looking for sponsors

Other events losing funding

Special Olympics,$7,000; MLK Battle of the Bands,$6,305

[Last modified October 20, 2007, 21:27:12]

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