Fishers Freedom Fest comes to an end

FISHERS, Ind. -- A 29-year tradition in Fishers, Indiana has come to an end. 

The Fishers Freedom Festival has ended its run due to a lack of funding, committee members said Wednesday. In August, the Fishers City Council and Mayor Scott Fadness discontinued all grant money and in-kind services to the festival. The 2017 event in June was its last.

“We are very proud of the Fishers Freedom Festival’s positive community impact that contributed to Fishers’ overall quality of life,” Festival Board President Don Dragoo said in a release. “The decision to terminate the Fishers Freedom Festival was made after many considerations, but is unavoidable due to financial circumstances. We want to sincerely thank all of our past sponsors, donors, vendors, residents, city staff and volunteers that have supported us over the past 29 years.”

The Fishers Freedom Festival began in 1989, and grew into a picnic, parade and weekend event. In 1998, the festival became a non-profit, meaning it could accept tax-deductible donations. 

The City of Fishers released a statement on the Freedom Festival, saying it was "unable to demonstrate fiscal independence":

The City of Fishers is grateful to the Fishers Freedom Festival Board of Directors and volunteers for their years of service in creating a great community tradition. The City of Fishers and the Parks and Recreation department are dedicated to honoring the Festival’s tradition in future events, including the annual parade. 

The City strives to support nonprofit organizations in our community, both financially and in-kind. This year, our City Council created a Nonprofit Grant Committee to evaluate how we support all nonprofit organizations, transparently and fairly, over time. The Fishers Freedom Festival traditionally received half of the City's nonprofit grant budget in addition to in-kind services, the equivalent to 10 percent of the Fishers Parks and Recreation budget. Through the application process, FFF was unable to demonstrate fiscal independence, and the nonprofit committee felt it was best to allocate the grant dollars to benefit multiple nonprofits in an effort to help a greater number of residents. 

From 2008 to 2016, Fishers gave $85,000 per year to the festival. In 2017, the city provided $45,000. In August, all funding and services were discontinued. The city chose 13 other organizations to split $331,000.

"We had over $934,000 requests for grants this year, we gave out $331,000. We're helping all of Fishers from kids to adults, domestic abuse victims, etc etc. And I'm very proud of that," said Fishers City Councilor Brad Dereamer.

Chris Sorenson of Janus Developmental Services said the organization is very thankful for the help.

"We are thrilled because as a lot of nonprofits who receive funding from the government, there are frequently changes in those funding sources. It's typical, it seems like we're always trying to do more with less funding," said Sorenson.

Those organizations (and what they do) are: 

  • Ascent 121 - assistance for survivors of human trafficking 
  • Cherish - child advocacy and abuse intervention and prevention services
  • Conner Prairie Museum, Inc. - interactive history park and Smithsonian-affiliate museum
  • Geist Half Marathon - annual marathon fundraiser for youth health and wellness programs 
  • Hamilton County Leadership Academy - a community leadership development program
  • Hamilton County Youth Assistance for Fishers Youth Assistance Program - develop and provide access to programs and services that promote positive growth experiences and enhance home and community relationships.
  • Hamilton Southeastern School Foundation - its mission is to bring the next best practices in education home to local students and teachers
  • Janus Developmental Services - provides adult individuals with disabilities the opportunity to participate and contribute within the community
  • Nickel Plate Arts - supports, promotes and provides outstanding arts experiences in Fishers
  • Spaceport Exploration - supports STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math) education that prepares America for the technologies that are shaping the world
  • Youth Mentoring Initiative (YMI) - provides mentoring for students by building and sustaining a mentoring community with the highest level of service, integrity, encouragement, and empathy. 
  • City of Fishers Neighborhood Matching Grant - supports neighborhood beautification projects
  • City of Fishers Tree Matching Grant - supports neighborhood tree planting 
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