Longtime Tipton pork festival facing money woes

TIPTON, Ind. - For the third year in a row, weather has impacted the annual Tipton County Pork Festival and the result is the committee has depleted its reserve funds.

As a result of the three years of financial losses, members of the committee are looking at several options to return the festival, started in 1969, to a profitable operation.

"The weather has been devastating," said Jason Henderson, vice president of the Pork Festival committee. "We have a reorganization meeting next Monday. We'll receive the final fiscal report."

Henderson said in 2011 the festival lost $12,000 and he anticipates a similar loss for 2012.

"We'll take care of local people first," he said of paying vendors. "We'll try to reach an agreement with the larger vendors to pay them next year."

Henderson said in previous years when the festival funds have been depleted, board members have signed a note to obtain the funds. He said that happened at least twice.

"There is value to the festival and what it does for the community," he told the Kokomo Tribune (http://bit.ly/Tfy7kQ ).

Henderson said there has been some discussion about limiting the number of food vendors at the festival because the largest fundraising for the organization is the sale of pork chop dinners.

Another option is to move the festival to the Tipton County 4-H fairgrounds because all the events could take place indoors.

Henderson said the festival committee spends as much as $18,000 per year on tents. He said renting the fairgrounds would cost $4,000.

A concern for festival coordinators is how attendance could be impacted, if the venue is changed from the courthouse square to the fairgrounds.

Henderson said among the list of concerns is the annual parade. He said parade participant entries have been declining, annually.

Another option is to hire a company to run the food tent that serves pork chop dinners and the festival committee will receive a percentage of the sales.

"We need to consider making changes in how the fair is conducted," Henderson said.

Brett Curnutt, who has been active with the festival for 30 years, said he will fight to keep the festival located on the courthouse square, questioning whether a move to the fairgrounds would be profitable.

"Our business model was based on one rain every three years," he said. "We've had rain three years in a row. We may have to redefine the business model for rain two out of every three years."

Curnutt said Tipton County is known for the Pork Festival which generates $1 million during the three days and brings new visitors to the community and potential investors.

When asked about limiting food vendors, Curnutt said many local nonprofit organizations depend on the festival to raise funds for the entire year. He said vendors selling certain food items are in direct competition with the food tent operated by the committee.

"The festival will continue," Curnutt said.

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