Organizers: Macon’s Levee Fest canceled this year

Cherry Blossom Festival President and CEO Richard Brewer said Wednesday that this year’s Levee Fest has been canceled.

Levee Fest has struggled financially during the time it has been run by the Cherry Blossom Festival, losing roughly $25,000 over those two years, he said.

“Although we have explored ways to keep this festival alive, we cannot find a sustainable way to make it commercially viable in its current format,” Brewer said in a news release announcing the cancellation.

Given that there has been major turnover with the Cherry Blossom Festival staff -- including Brewer, who started just five weeks ago -- there wouldn’t have been much preparation time to get Levee Fest ready by Sept. 29, the date it was scheduled to take place.

Brewer said no contracts had been signed with musicians or people interested in the event’s annual barbecue competition. The official decision to cancel the festival was made last week, Brewer said.

Levee Fest began in 2010 and traditionally has been held in Central City Park.

Organizers sold tickets to the first Levee Fest but gave away tickets last year.

“We tried two different formats,” Brewer said. “Both lost money.”

Brewer said the staff and board want to have a fall festival that celebrates Macon’s music heritage, but such an event takes careful planning.

“I’ve been in the festival business for 35 years, and I know you want at least 18 months (to start a festival),” Brewer said. “After that, it should be a 12-month process if you have a full-time staff.”

Because of that reasoning, Brewer said he didn’t think it was the right thing to do to ask another local organization to step in to take over the festival with so little lead time.

Brewer said other factors also need to be considered. Given the popularity of college football throughout the region, Brewer said it’s important to look at game dates when planning a festival, particularly the University of Georgia’s football schedule. Had Levee Fest taken place this year, it would have conflicted with the Georgia-Tennessee game Sept. 29, one of the key games of the college football season for both universities.

“When you plan a festival in the fall, you have to look at that,” he said.

By contrast, the Cherry Blossom Festival, which usually takes place in March, is scheduled around the time when the cherry blossom trees are expected to be in bloom.

Brewer said he and the Cherry Blossom board hopes to bring back Levee Fest or a similar festival for fall 2013. He said there’s plenty of room for festivals throughout the year.

“There’s definitely room for another festival,” he said. “I totally enjoyed Bragg Jam (in July). I thought they did a good festival. It was totally different than what we do.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.