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Festival adapts to booking conflicts

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One of Bartholomew County’s largest and most successful festivals will be roughing it this year.

The 23rd annual Columbus Scottish Festival on Sept. 13 and 14 will use tents instead of Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds buildings for some activities.

It also will use portable toilets instead of the fairgrounds’ restrooms, festival president Justin Booth said.

The change is due to a scheduling conflict at the county fairgrounds.

Fair board president Larry Fisher and Booth said a new fairgrounds rental person was unaware that the fair board since 2003 always had reserved the second weekend of September for the festival.

“In the past, we’ve generally had a gentleman’s agreement about that,” Fisher said. “This year, word didn’t quite get passed down.”

Only Ethnic Expo and Hope Heritage Days have a longer festival history among major events.

The event features Scottish music and food, pipe bands, athletic competition, a sheepdog demonstration, Highland dancing and other offerings.

It pumps about $300,000 into the local economy and draws more out-of-county visitors than any other local festival, said Lynn Lucas, executive director of the Columbus Area Visitors Center.

Three weddings already were booked for various parts of the fairgrounds when a member of the Columbus Scottish Festival went in March to sign a contract to use the buildings and land. The weddings could not be moved.

Because the festival already had paid $3,000 for an advertisement in the already-published Indiana State Festival Guide and other media, the festival couldn’t easily be moved to a new date or locale.

“We also already had booked our entertainment, and most of these groups already are performing at other festivals other weekends,” Booth said.

Annual crowds of about 5,000 people are accustomed to coming to the fairgrounds, and organizers thought it would be best to stay put by using different parts of the fairgrounds property, he said.

For instance, the event’s signature Saturday buffet-and-entertainment gathering, called a Ceilidh, will be moved from one of the buildings to the livestock barn.

Booth said the festival probably will incur additional expense for tents in place of the buildings, but he is looking for additional financial or in-kind sponsors to help defray costs.

“I just want to make sure people know that the event is still on,” Booth said.

He said he had heard at other recent, community events that some residents thought the festival was canceled.

The oversight has improved communication between the festival and the fair board, Fisher said. He said the festival would soon sign a three- to five-year lease with the fair board to prevent further scheduling problems.

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