By Connie Leinbach
The Ocrafolk Festival will finally make some money for community arts programming thanks to admission begun this year to the stage areas.
“It worked,” said David Tweedie, executive director of Ocracoke Alive, which produces the music and storytelling event the first full weekend every June, about the move to charge admission this year. “The overall feedback was, ‘It’s about time.’”
The festival fully expanded by a half a day June 1 to 3 with six concerts on Friday at the main Live Oak Stage in the Books to Be Red yard and more concerts and activities all day and night Saturday and all-day Sunday.
For a weekend pass, fest-goers could see about 27 bands, storytellers, dancers and more. A day pass was $15 and a weekend pass was $50. The passes got fest-goers into the fenced-off stage areas at the Live Oak stage, the Howard Street stage, the workshop stage beside the United Methodist Church, Deepwater Theater, the Community Center and the Berkley Barn.
There was no charge for anyone to walk along the artisan booths and food vendors on School Road while still in earshot of the music in the background.
Although the Howard Street stage frequently had standing-room-only, even for those with passes, the Live Oak Stage area also was packed but not to the uncomfortable point as in years past.
“It was remarkable,” said Tweedie, who also is Fiddler Dave of Molasses Creek. “It worked really well.”
Although the numbers are still being tallied, Tweedie was pleased that the event had about $19,000 in pre-sales and about $35,000 in walk-up ticket and merchandise sales. It will be about two weeks before Ocracoke Alive determines its profit.
Earlier this year, Tweedie said that after last year’s festival, Ocracoke Alive realized it would have to either charge for admission or end the festival.
“It’s breaking even at this point,” he had said, “but if we had a weather event it would bankrupt us.”
Ocracoke Alive relies on the festival to produce additional revenue to help fund community arts programming throughout the year.
Though downpours a few days prior to this year’s festival left the main stage area a pond, John Brock of Hatteras got right on the job of draining that area so that it was ready for chairs by Friday when the sun returned all weekend, Tweedie said.
Fest attendee Richard Perkins of Kitty Hawk, who also is co-chair of the Ocracoke Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament, noted on Sunday that though the crowd at the Live Oak Stage was smaller, “(the admission charge) didn’t scare everyone off.”
Perkins understood that the event has to sustain itself.
“I’d certainly be OK to have to buy a ticket than to see it discontinued,” he said.
Artisan vendors also, for the most part, were pleased with sales.
“We did well,” said Karen Mason, whose booth was opposite the main stage. “We loved the music, love the people. They really support the artists.”
In a new twist on Sunday, storyteller Rodney Kemp hosted a “story slam,” inviting audience members to share stories.
Pam Lothson of DeKalb told the story of how she met her husband during a hiking accident when both were 15. The young man soothed her before help arrived. When he later asked her out, she declined his invitations for about a year.
“That was 40 years ago and today is our wedding anniversary,” she told the crowd, which voiced its approval with applause. “Gary,” she said while looking at her husband seated in the audience. “I forgot to get you a card. So, this is my card.”
Jef the Mime, one of several artists/characters who return each year, praised another great event as he packed up his vehicle.
“It’s always such a pleasure to hear all these great musicians playing in their own right,” he said. “The audience likes the performers. The performers like the audience. It works.”
Ocrafolk Festival is seeking feedback on this year’s event. All those who fill out a survey here will be entered in a drawing to win tickets to next year’s festival June 7 to 9.