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Mainstrasse Village May Seek Outside Group to Run Iconic Festivals

Plagued with various issues in recent years, the MainStrasse Village Association held a public meeting Tuesday night to discuss the potential of outsourcing all of the festivals it holds each year.

Festivals including Maifest, Oktoberfest, Goettafest and smaller events such as the wine and bourbon festivals may start being produced by Cincinnati-based Coldiron Concessions as soon as next week when the Board of Directors meets to vote on the issue.

However, turning out in large numbers, many local business owners and residents of MainStrasse Village oppose such outsourcing, citing the fact that there seems to be a renewed energy and pride in Covington, and that they should remain locally-run events.

“I think that by keeping this in-house, us all working together, we can build that (cohesion),” Joe Boone, who owns Julie’s Inspiration Consignment with his wife, Julie, said. “I think if we farm this out to another organization, they’re going to reap the benefits down the road… in several years we’ll see money going elsewhere and we need to keep it here.”

The concept of hiring a third party to conduct festivals in MainStrasse came late last year after lackluster performances by all festivals, causing financial stress on the MSVA. Late last year, the MSVA laid off its executive director and full-time assistant to save funds at the cash-strapped organization.

Chip Adkins, of Piper's Cafe and treasurer for MSVA, said that after intense review of the financial situation, spending has been cut nearly 20-25 percent to help save money. The association is currently entering into no new contracts and limiting spending to aid in cutting operating costs.

If entered into a partnership with Coldiron Concessions, MSVA would receive a payment from Coldiron averaging the profit of festivals in recent years, an amount that would be agreed upon at the entry of a 3-5 year contract.

According to Adkins, Coldiron would absorb all costs of the festival, and even if the festivals operate at a deficit MSVA would receive a profitable payment for the events.

“The two options that were presented seemed to be the current three-legged version that isn’t quite working for whatever reason, and something new, scary and uncomfortable for a baseline profit for something that was in so much trouble it almost didn’t exist a few months ago,” Chris Rudd, the general manager at Goodfella’s Pizza, said. “So, if you are thinking long-term it just makes business sense to guarantee money and then revisit the issue later.”

Kristin Schroder, secretary for MSVA, says that a main discussion between the board and Coldiron is aligning their goals and visions for the future of the festivals to best serve MainStrasse Village as a whole.

With this in mind, a majority of the nearly 50 community members in attendance still voted against allowing Coldiron to run festivals in MainStrasse Village.

Adkins urged those in attendance to be aware of the manpower it would take in the coming weeks alone by a group of volunteers just to get the ball rolling and sponsors in place for the quickly approaching Maifest.

“We’ve got to get a committee in place very quickly so we can start dealing with vendors and getting them signed up and getting contracts signed, all that kind of stuff,” Adkins said. “We need a bunch of people willing to be in the office every day and helping.”

Adkins added that it’s not an impossible goal, but it would take 10-20 people working a minimum of 10 hours a week to get it all together.

Sonia and Bob Derge, who have lived in MainStrasse for nearly 30 years and have been active members of the community, said that they’re excited to see a surplus in people turning out.

Bob Derge has concerns, though, for operating costs as anywhere from $20,000-$30,000 can automatically be added to the budget to pay for security provided by the Covington Police and Fire Departments, a problem many surrounding cities don’t face when hosting festivals.

“I would hope that there is a (new) vitality in MainStrasse with all of the young people and that they would support the city and the festivals,” Sonia Derge said, discussing the number of younger people in attendance that showed interest in volunteering for festivals.

Vice president of the board, Tim Weiss, presented arguments from both sides of the vote, citing the fact that the cost of being a title sponsor had decreased dramatically over the years, and selling such a spot is becoming more difficult.

Weiss, however, also pointed out that Covington is undergoing a notable renaissance and many new apartment buildings are coming to the area, including in Mainstrasse, which could provide the opportunity for increased revenue from festivals.

“Historically for the last seven years there’s been a lot of growth outside of Covington,” Weiss said, citing mass development in areas such as Over-the-Rhine and The Banks in Cincinnati. “The seven-year itch has come around and people are getting tired of that and they’re coming back around.”

The Board of Directors will meet February 9 to vote on whether or not future MainStrasse Festivals will be operated under the control of the MSVA or Coldiron Concessions.

Written by Carrie Crotzer, RCN contributor