Pay-day: Sponsors fled from Fridays

As complaints mount [see letters in this issue–ed.] over the decision to begin levying an entry charge for a formerly free event, Fridays After Five organizers are blaming their financial woes on the loss of such high-rolling sponsors as Technicolor, Adelphia, and the Virginia Lottery.

As first reported last week in The Hook, Fridays After 5 concerts will soon require listeners to pay a $3 entrance fee to hear local bands, and $5 to see the four national acts lined up this year.

In a March 17 press conference, organizers revealed that sponsors shelled out $150,000 for Fridays two years ago. This year, sponsorships total just $30,000– while expenses average $10,000 a week.

"You do the math," says Tony LaBua, chairman of the Fridays committee of the Charlottesville Downtown Foundation.

Charging an entrance fee may not solve the event's problems because the City of Charlottesville, which owns the site, the Downtown Amphitheater, will now charge an average $4,500 a week for its use.

Foundation president Mike Cvetanovich emphasizes Fridays' commitment to local bands, even though national bands like Foreigner, the Little River Band, and Marshall Tucker are part of this year's schedule. "We strongly support the local scene," he says.

Cvetanovich also denies that outside food will be banned. "We really want the public to support our vendors," he says, "but families with picnics we're not going to turn you away."

Coolers have never been allowed, he says, but that seems to have been loosely enforced, and even now coolers carrying baby bottles won't be turned away. Any closed container is subject to search.

The Charlottesville Downtown Foundation says it's expecting to clear, after expenses, 27 cents from each $3 admission. Should the organization show a profit, it would like to support other events throughout the year things such as a "Boohouse" or a polka fest.

Profitability may be determined by how locals adapt to having to pay for what had been a pleasant benny of living in Charlottesville.


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