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Despite rain threat, Potato Fest turned $37K profit

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Attendees of the 2018 N.C. Potato Festival in Elizabeth City are shown upside down as they take a roller coaster ride, Friday, May 18. Organizers of this year's Potato Festival said the weather-threatened event still managed to make a $37,000 profit.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Despite a near-constant threat of rain, this year’s N.C. Potato Festival managed to turn a profit of slightly more than $37,000, a festival organizer said Thursday.

Cindy Williams, who co-chaired last month’s Potato Festival committee with her husband Tim, told Elizabeth City Downtown Inc. board members that profits from the 2018 festival were down about 15 percent from last year’s event. The 2017 festival turned a profit of more than $43,500.

Williams said although the number of paid amusement rides from this year’s festival were down 10 percent, the event’s income from Florida-based Deggeller Attractions came in at right under $21,000. She noted the festival’s new contract with Deggeller resulted in an uptick of 1 percent in income for the event.

Williams said the 2018 festival's total income was approximately $126,500, with between $55,000 and $58,000 of that coming from event sponsors. Slightly less than $30,000 was generated from festival vendors.

Williams said this year’s festival cost about $90,000 to put on, with expenses for the stage and sound equipment totaling approximately $17,000.

The N.C. Potato Festival both celebrates the area's potato growing-heritage and serves as downtown's signature event. Proceeds go to help support ongoing efforts to restore the city’s downtown.

To provide some perspective of how the festival has grown, Williams noted the festival’s profit in 2011 was only $21,900. That was, of course, before the festival added mechanical rides and expanded to three days in 2014. However, 2011 was also the year the weather was so hot, Williams said, vendors ran out of soda pop and the regional Pepsi distributor had to haul in another load of soft drinks.

Profits for the 2012 event fell to $10,000 and were only $11,000 in 2013.

It was only after the festival added Deggeller’s mechanical rides and became a three-day event did its profits start climbing — to $32,000 in 2014 and $33,000 in 2015.

The 2016 event was affected by rain, resulting in profits of only $26,600.

Williams said the 2017 event's profit of $43,500 was the result of a tremendous turnout on Friday — the forecast for that Saturday called for rain — followed by another tremendous turnout on Sunday.

Tim Williams, who also serves as ECDI board chairman, suggested this year’s festival income, while down from last year, was better than many expected given the weather forecast heading into the event.

"We did get wet a couple of times, but all in all, I think attendance, given what the forecast was, was really good,” he said.

Williams noted that many people said on social media that they planned to attend the festival despite the forecast of rain. “They said, ‘Well, we waited all year for it. We're coming anyway,’" he said.

He said while the festival can pose some inconvenience for small numbers of people, particularly when it comes to traffic, “all in all the community has really bought into the event and looks forward to it."

ECDI board member Buddy Madrin, as he has in the past, expressed his appreciation to both Williamses for their leadership of the event.

"God bless you," he said.

Madrin also expressed his appreciation to ECDI Director Deborah Malenfant.

Cindy Williams said sponsorship dollars are what make the event a reality. She also said the toughest part of organizing the festival is lining up sponsors. She paid particularly tribute to Malenfant for her role in attracting sponsors.

“Asking for money is hard. It is hard,” Williams said. “If you don’t believe in what you are doing, then it becomes harder. Fortunately for us, Debbie does believe in what she’s doing and she has done a great job in that avenue for us.”

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