Time to look at changes after Rock the Park cancellation

The Columbus Area Arts Council faces a difficult challenge over the future of its annual Rock the Park music event, which it canceled this year because of heavy rain and lightning.

Calling off the event about an hour before the scheduled start time was justified in the name of safety, but that step ultimately caused a severe financial hit.

The arts council carried an insurance policy in case the concert had to be canceled due to soggy conditions, but its claim was denied because the rainfall minimum went unmet. The policy’s minimum rainfall measurement to collect from a claim was three-fourths of an inch between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Aug. 13.

That threshold is a half-inch greater than the policy Our Hospice of South Central Indiana has for its annual fundraiser concert, also conducted in Mill Race Park, which has been plagued by inclement weather and cancellations through the years.

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With no income to offset expenses, the arts council had to deplete its Rock the Park reserve fund of about $90,000 in order to pay about $135,000 in concert costs — including the fee for headliner KC and the Sunshine Band. That development is catastrophic to the concert series, and a hit of that magnitude can have a negative impact on programming throughout the year.

Fortunately, Columbus as a community has a history of rising to the occasion when urgent calls for help are made — and this is one of those times.

Several business leaders have already stepped up to make large donations, and others have pledged to increase their usual giving levels for the agency’s Oct. 22 unCommon Cause, the arts council’s biggest fundraiser each year. That’s welcome news.

However, the concert’s viability will be reviewed — as it should be — by the arts council board, staff leadership and other Rock the Park stakeholders and community leaders. It’s clear that a repeat of this year can’t happen again.

Changing from one large event in the park to a series of smaller concerts that could be moved indoors if needed might be a better programming model to consider.

Rock the Park has been a successful event in the past, and has fed an appetite for live music as demonstrated by crowds of 5,000 or more. But it might be best to create a different kind of concert model — with less risk of cancellations — for patrons to support in the future.