CitiFest dissolvedWritten by Justin R. Kalmes | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Downtown Toledo will still feature entertainment and events this summer despite the dissolution of the nonprofit organization that staged such functions for more than two decades, a spokesman for Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said.
Brian Schwartz, Finkbeiner’s executive assistant, said the city is working with “a couple of entities” to take over some of the functions CitiFest oversaw in the past after the organization’s board of directors voted Jan. 23 to dissolve. He said the city has conducted preliminary meetings to determine how that would happen.
Schwartz would not name the organizations or groups the city was working with or the events they were planning to stage.
“There will be events in Downtown this summer,” he said, noting the city is aware of what needs to be done and the timeline that needs to be maintained for such functions to happen.
The Blade reported Jan. 24 that it is one of the organizations in talks with the city.
CitiFest board president Brian Epstein blamed the dissolution on the more than $250,000 in debt the organization incurred through operating the Erie Street Market and providing entertainment Downtown.
“CitiFest is done and not moving in a direction for planning events,” Epstein said.
In a news release issued after the dissolution, the CitiFest board said, “Without reimbursement for expenditures at the Erie Street Market, made on behalf of the City of Toledo, and exhausting all other options, the continuation of CitiFest is not feasible.”
CitiFest coordinated annual Downtown Toledo events such as the Fourth of July fireworks display, Holiday Parade, Labor Day Riverfest and Ribs on the River. The group also organized the summer Rally by the River concert series that took place in Promenade Park.
Epstein said there are no plans to reorganize the CitiFest board under a different name or merge it with another established group. He said he could not answer whether annual events CitiFest staged would take place in 2008 or beyond.
“There is too much debt and too many other things need to happen, and no other organization wants to take that on,” Epstein said. “CitiFest can’t merge in with any other entity.”
The CitiFest board will rely on the court system to determine what receivables the organization is owed and what it must pay creditors, Epstein said. More than $200,000 of CitiFest’s debt could be recouped through the application of grants and receipts from the City of Toledo and reimbursement for the Erie Street Market’s losses, he said.
CitiFest, Epstein said, owed approximately $50,000 to creditors.
“The hope is through this process things will liquidate out and try to get all creditors paid as best as possible,” Epstein said.
Columbia Gas of Ohio, the Ribs on the River’s title sponsor, has been approached by several Northwest Ohio organizations about continuing the event, said company spokesman Chris Kozak. Kozak, who sat on the CitiFest board, declined to identify the organizations to which he was referring.
Columbia Gas originally committed its sponsorship for three years, but later extended the commitment to five years due to the success of the inaugural event last year.
Schwartz said the city has no plans to cover any of CitiFest’s debt.
“That debt was incurred by CitiFest,” he said. “They need to deal with those debts.”