Quality Harborfest Anticipated Despite Financial Challenges

OSWEGO, NY – “The goal of Oswego Harborfest is to draw attention to our community and its beautiful harbor, while at the same time providing something special for the residents of our area,” said Oswego Harborfest Executive Director Doug Buske.

The 28th annual festival is rapidly approaching, but the task of providing a quality admission-free event is a challenge.

Buske noted, “I don’t think most people realize there we are a tax exempt organization and that we do not have a lot of financial resources left after Harborfest is over. Every year is a new game and we start from scratch each year as we move forward to the next year. When this year is over we will immediately begin planning for next year as we have to start all over financially.”

Over the years support has come from many fronts and includes not only financial support, but in-kind services that contribute to maintaining the high quality event.

The executive director is proud of the fact that Oswego Harborfest remains one of the few admission-free festivals in the nation and noted, “We want it to remain that way.”

He said, “For 28 years everyone has come together to make Oswego Harbofest a success and showcase our area.  Everyone just works together as they are proud of what we are doing.”

Organizing a four-day festival of this scope is not an easy matter and has become more complicated in recent years.

Buske explained, “There are challenges as our operating budget is one-third of what it use to be, but we continue to successfully produce a viable Harborfest. We use to have eight full-time staff, We now have five part-time people putting the event together.”

Support from businesses, organization, municipalities, state units and individuals continue to provide the blood line for the festival.

“We really haven’t talked about it, but there are expenses that I don’t think are common knowledge for the thousands who attend the festival. The cost of the stages is in excess of $33,000,“ Buske said.

Recently, there was a surprise for Buske into the required ambulance services.

The director said, “Safety is a main emphasis for us and we are required to comply with federal, state and local regulations. The cost of the ambulances went up more than $5,000 in one year and we had not budgeted for that type of increase.”

It is no secret that the cost of quality entertainment is increasing.

“Just look down the road at the New York State Fair and you can see the difficulty they are having booking entertainment as costs have soared,” Buske said. “We continue to have one of the last free music festivals in the nation and we are obtaining the best musicians we can afford.”

Continuing he said, “We need to rent all of the bathrooms and hand wash stations as well as pay for security and more than $18,000 alone for tents along with tables, chairs, lighting,  signage, office costs and rent are additional expenses.  There are also costs involved in paying for numerous support staff areas including stage manager and sound technicians.”

Reflecting on what it takes to keep the quality of Harborfest going he noted, “The generous support we have received is what keeps us going, but times are changing and the economy is much different than it was years ago and some of the businesses that supported us years ago aren’t there today.”

If someone is waiting to support Harborfest the director said, ”We are quite a bit behind in fundraising contributions this year and we really need support to maintain the quality and the future of what we consider a major resource for our community and Central New York. It would not be possible to continue this event without the massive support we receive from the city of Oswego, governmental entities, businesses, organizations and individual and family members. If anyone would like to contribute to the support of this fantastic region wide event we can be reached at 41 Lake St., Oswego, NY 13126 or by calling 315-343-6858.”