Tonawanda News

April 5, 2013

City, Canal Fest debate profit numbers

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The summer and its trademark local event, Canal Fest, are quickly approaching, and for the second year in a row, the event will close down on the City of Tonawanda side at 10 p.m.

The council’s decision to move the closing time from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m. was made in April of 2012 in response to the 2011 event, which was riddled with safety issues, including a near-brawl of 150 youths and numerous disorderly conduct arrests. 

But Canal Fest organizers opposed the decision. They argued the move was made without their input and that the reduced hours would result in a large loss of profits. Organizer Randy Fahs said that if the ride operator’s profits were reduced, he may not extend the contract with the organization — putting future fests in peril. 

“He’s a rational businessman, and he’s going to do what is best for his profits,” Fahs said Thursday. “If this is the best way the police chief can protect the community, maybe we should we find someone who has better ideas.”

But Canal Fest Inc. representatives eventually conceded and signed the event contract just days before its start. The fest went off without a hitch. 

After a successful week-long event, police argued that it was both safer and more family-friendly. A review of the News police blotter indicates that just eight arrests were directly tied to the fest — down from 29 the previous year.

And Tuesday, the council passed a resolution setting the closing time for the 2013 event at 10 p.m.

“We seemed to have a decent year closing at 10,” Council President Carleton Zeisz said. “We just stuck to what worked last year.” 

But in response to the city’s arguments, organizers said profits were down 20 percent as a result of the reduction in hours. The budget report, which wasn’t released until December of 2012, details the percentage of profits Canal Fest received from each stand from 2008 until 2012. 

The document shows that total concession payments started out at $31,843 in 2008 and in 2010, went up to a high of $38,957. In 2011, total concession payments amounted to $34,266, and in 2012, the number increased to $35,274.

But Fahs said those numbers aren’t indicative of the ride operator’s profits, as each stand’s showing ebbs and flows over the years depending on various expenses. 

But the Carousel Society of the Niagara Frontier’s profits are a percentage of ride operator Corky Powers’ revenues, Fahs said. Those numbers went from $7,656 in 2010 to $6,501 in 2011, and then down again to $5,795 in 2012. 

That decrease from 2011 to 2012 amounts to a 10.9 percent reduction — not 20.

But Fahs has argued that 2011 shouldn’t be included in the analysis, as weather that summer prevented many from coming to the event. When 2011 is left out of the mix, a 24.3 percent 

But Zeisz pointed out that 2012 was the first year Powers wasn’t able to operate rides on Sunday, per a new state law. That in itself could account for the decrease, he said.

“I don’t see the 20 or 25 percent drop across the board,” Zeisz said. “We are talking about a difference of just six hours.” 

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150