Bolstered by $10 million federal grant, Summerfest projects $13.3 million profit before depreciation

·3 min read
Spectators enjoying the final day of Summerfest in 2021.
Spectators enjoying the final day of Summerfest in 2021.

For the organizers of Summerfest, the projected bottom-line numbers from 2021 tell only half the story of staging a music festival in the middle of a pandemic.

Despite sharply lower attendance because of COVID-19, Milwaukee World Festival is projecting a profit of $13.3 million before depreciation, according to a budget that must still be approved by the organization's full board this week.

The organization's finances were bolstered by a $10 million federal grant under COVID-19 relief. Milwaukee World Festival was among organizations across the state and country to qualify for a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant.

"The SVOG grant covered the 2020 losses of $8,100,000 which resulted from the cancellation of the event season," said Don Smiley, president and chief executive of Milwaukee World Festival. "Those funds were utilized for that purpose and allowed Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. to manage through the pandemic."

The organization's overall numbers were detailed in a meeting of its finance committee Monday, chaired by Mary Ellen Stanek, managing director and chief investment officer of Baird Advisors and president of Baird Funds in Milwaukee.

"It’s not lost on any of us, it's just a huge community win to be able to host an event in 2021," Stanek said. "We were forced to September dates, the festival operated and we learned a lot of lessons in that new operating mode."

For Summerfest, 2021 was something of a comeback after the festival had to be canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Next year's budget, Stanek said, "is what I’d call a responsible approach to the 2022 season as we work toward the next new normal."

Summerfest anticipates a "demand for live concerts and entertainment," Stanek said, but hurdles will remain.

There were two other key figures from the projected numbers.

There's an anticipated capital budget of $1.5 million in 2022.

Also, in 2021 Summerfest operated under a new agreement with the City of Milwaukee to pay security costs associated with the event.

Under the projected budget, Summerfest paid $498,000 for security. That figure included a $144,000 supplemental services fee that Summerfest already pays the city under its lease agreement for Maier Festival Park.

Plans are moving forward for Summerfest to take place over three consecutive weekends next year, June 23-25, June 30-July 2 and July 7-9, 2022.

Organizers say the move, should help in recruiting personnel to staff the event. In 2021, the festival operated with around 50% of normal staffing and hopes to reach 75% next summer.

Pre-pandemic, there were around 2,000 hires to help stage the Big Gig.

"Just operating in June and July should help us with people power," Smiley said.

Before the finance committee meeting, Smiley announced that he and his partner, Kelli Kreuser, a real estate agent, had recently gotten engaged.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Summerfest projects $13.3 million profit before depreciation

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