Funding cuts impact annual Hampton festival

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – The city of Hampton is preparing for several events this weekend. One of them is the annual the Hampton Bay Days Festival. It will go on, but on a smaller scale.

Event organizers say at one time the festival drew crowds of nearly 200,000. More recent tallies estimate crowds near between 75,000 and 100,000 for the three-day festival.

DOCUMENT: Hampton to focus on more frequent festivals

This year’s Hampton Bay Days Festival will be different. Hampton Bay Days President Chuck Leavines told 10 On Your Side, “It’s a great event. It’s always been a great event.”

In June, plans were announced to cut city funding for the festival in 2016. The response from Bay Days organizers was to cancel the event for 2015.

“It was a tough decision. It was a business decision. It boiled down to trying to change the event, refresh it and make it new, bring new ideas to the table,” Leavines said.

Instead of the original plan to cancel everything, organizers decided to scale back. So the 33rd annual festival will only spend just one day in Hampton.

There are no events planned for Friday.

On Saturday, there will be a Bay Days 10K Run that begins at 7 a.m. Leavines said 500 – 600 people have registered. The Kids Fun Run will begin at 9:30 a.m. Music at the Point will be held from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m at Mill Point Park.

On Sunday, there will be a free Blues Concert in Norfolk.

“There was money given for the full festival this year. We thought this would be the last big 2-3 day festival and then we would work with the group to scale it differently in the future but when they heard their future funding was going to be cut they were the ones who opted not to hold this year’s festival,” Robin McCormick, Spokeswoman City of Hampton said.

Leavines said organizers have already received $50,000 from the city for the festival. Some money will be given back next week, but they don’t know how much.

10 On Your Side’s Brandi Cummings asked, “Where is that money now?” To which Leavines responded, “We are negotiating with the city now to return those funds.” He went on to say, “The money hasn’t been determined quite yet because the expenses still need to be accounted for but we did meet with the city yesterday [Wednesday] and we are planning on returning their money to them next week.”

McCormick said the Bay Days Festival costs the city more than it generates in revenue. When Leavines was asked during the interview with 10 On Your Side how much money is generated, he said he didn’t know.

Wednesday night council members heard from organizers of another event planned in Hampton. The Crawlin’ Crab Half Marathon & 5K, planned for October is expected to generate $1.3 million in revenue.

Of that event McCormick said, “We’re talking about some of the hotels are already filled. They spend money eating out. They stay here for one or two days. It’s kind of a big festival weekend.”

While the City of Hampton prepares for the remaining events planned for the year, the Bay Days Festival is looking for a new city to call home.

The City of Hampton announced plans to give $10,000 for the Bay Days Festival in 2016. McCormick said city leaders cut back on funding in order to spread out their contributions to city events in hopes of drawing visitors year round.

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