Creative Arts Inc. president Chuck Renaud guarantees the Gage Park music fest will go on this August and promises an excellent event. Beyond that, its future is fuzzy.
"It might be the last one we ever do but we'll certainly make it worthwhile." Last week, the beleaguered group took a big hit when executive director Loren Lieberman stepped down. He had big ambitions to take the festival nationwide but said his plans were hampered by a lack of support from the city.
"The last couple of years have been excellent festivals, contrary to the staff at city hall who don't feel it's a very good festival at all," said Renaud.
There is interest in Vancouver and Calgary to bring in a franchised Festival of Friends, said Renaud. It's the biggest free arts and music event in the country, with a budget of $1.1 million. Creative Arts wants the city to kick in $130,000, but indications are it will get about $68,000 in this year's delayed budget. That matches last year's amount but is about $40,000 less than in 2001. The city can't afford to increase funding to the Festival of Friends, said Councillor Bill Kelly, who sits on the grants sub-committee.
"The festival is a wonderful weekend in this city. It's one of those things that makes Hamilton unique. "The city has done everything we could."