Festival International considers moving outside Lafayette to break even

Lafayette Parish

LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — A festival that’s called Lafayette home for over 20 years is figuring out if Lafayette can stay its home after spending more money that it took in for 2020.

When the city council heard about a potential move, they called Festival International’s executive director to a meeting to explain.

Festival International is trying to find a way to break even in 2021 and one of the options is relocation, possibly and partially to Youngsville.

When the festival started in 1987, the $150,000 budget was a 50/50 split between the city and the organization. Before COVID, the budget was 12 times the size with the same $75,000 contribution from Lafayette.

Most of the money is sourced through fundraising then on-site sales, so when brainstorming a way not to operate at a loss, the idea of getting funding from other communities came in.

Scott Feehan, Festival International executive director explained, “If we were able to open ourselves up to some additional support from a neighboring community, we could help try to mitigate some of those costs, have the primary event in Lafayette and a satellite event in Youngsville.”

But none of the locations listed excited organizers, so Feehan reached out to the Downtown Development Authority.

“This was a bomb that I had just dropped,” stated Feehan. “And now we’re here.”

The DDA CEO Anita Begnaud told the city council Festival International draws big corporations and small businesses like shops and restaurants to Downtown, and the sales tax generated should be rewarded.

“The economic impact of Festival is enormous. I don’t want to lose sight of that, and I want to think about the allocation that the city council decides to give to Festival as an allocation that you expect a return on,” Begnaud encouraged.

Feehan said he wants to commit to Downtown Lafayette and suggested performance or incentive-based funding, so his organization can stay committed hopefully forever. He also wants to discuss Downtown investment for lights, bollards, etc.

District 1 City Councilman Pat Lewis asked why they were not approached for additional help. “When we do the budget come out and say something like that. There’s probably something that perhaps maybe we could have done or maybe we can do. So just come out and for a couple of minutes tell us what you guys need, and we can see what we can do. There’s no promises, but just come out and ask,” Lewis encouraged.

District 4 CIty Councilwoman Nanette Cook said she has nothing against Youngsville, but added Festival International has always been in Downtown Lafayette and should remain that way. She asked how much funding organizers had secured for 2021.

Feehan answered they are approaching $150,000 in funds and are trying to figure out fundraising and additional ways to acquire another $350,000 for a smaller, perhaps virtual festival depending on what restrictions look like. Their goal is to break even.

Festival International is currently scheduled for the last week in April, 2021.

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