COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. – A West Michigan music festival is coming back for another year, but it is growing in the wrong direction according to organizers.
‘Rock the Rapids’ started as a two-day event held at Fifth-Third Ballpark in Comstock Park in 2009.
After not holding an event in 2010, the festival moved to downtown Grand Rapids in 2011, entertaining 38,000 fans over a six-day span.
In 2012, it stayed downtown, drawing in nearly 40,000 people.
Festival attendance is up each year but the people behind the event owe vendors and media sponsors money.
In 2013, organizers plan to scale back to keep the festival going and pay off tens of thousands in debt.
The festival is moving back to Fifth-Third Ballpark and will go from six days to three days to accommodate the baseball team’s schedule.
Organizers say one reason to keep the festival alive is to help pay back what’s owed to vendors and media outlets, including thousands owed to FOX 17 for commercial air-time.
“This year is a very important year for ‘Rock the Rapids’,” said the music festival’s co-founder Denny Baxter.
Baxter said large-scale events don’t happen overnight. As chief financial officer for the West Michigan Whitecaps, he should know.
“We operated for about nine-years before we played the first pitch,” said Baxter. “Some of these events that mean so much to us and seem like a good idea, pretty easy, there is a lot of work that goes into creating something with a community wide asset.”
Baxter said it can take years for a music festival to become a financial success.
“We anticipated that going in,” he said. “There was going to be a loss because it’s natural in those first couple of years, a little more than what we wanted to stomach at that point in time.”
There was talk of shutting the festival down for a year, but Baxter said a better option was to put on a smaller version.
“Maybe they think we are taking a step back and in some sense that is actually true but we believe in the festival so much that we are willing to continue to work at it,” he said.
This way, Baxter said ‘Rock the Rapids’ can pay off the tens of thousands it still owes from past festivals.
“Vendors are owed money from the festival. They need to be paid and they provided their service and good service and the festival has been in contact with all its vendors and its making monthly payments to all it’s vendors,” said Baxter.
That’s why he said it’s crucial to keep ‘Rock the Rapids’ alive and bring in the best entertainment possible.
“This event here this summer, we are looking to generate some dollars and retire those vendor bills,” said Baxter.
The festival is scheduled to run August 20th – 23rd. Acts are expected to be announced in the near future.