Crested Butte Music Festival in immediate need of funding

After 26 years, the reserves have run dry…

[  By Mark Reaman  ]

Like an over-tuned guitar string, the Crested Butte Music Festival appears on the brink of snapping after 26 years as a Crested Butte festival mainstay. A social media appeal sent out at the end of last week asking for $100,000 by the end of this week has generated support and some contributions, but not yet enough to bridge the funding gap needed to keep the festival humming along. As of Monday, October 24, Music Fest executive director Erica Vernon said she has seen pledges and contributions of about $35,000.

“Over the past couple of years, especially during COVID, it has been a struggle,” Vernon said. “We have tried to pivot and make the festival more engaged with the general community and be a part of the various communities in the valley. There has been a good response to that with a lot of local participation but the funding issue has continued to be a challenge. When COVID hit, we lost some board members and important financial supporters. Without those dollars, our revenues were down about 30%.”

In an email sent to Music Fest patrons and participants, the CBMF was clear it needed help. “Through our programming, we know we are making a real difference in individual lives, families and our community,” the email stated. “Every year, we reach out to report on our progress and ask you to consider giving towards our operating budget. This year, the appeal is much more urgent. Sadly, we will have to dissolve the organization if we do not secure funding by next Thursday. We have weathered many successes as well as trials and tribulations over the past 26 years. Yet, while we managed to survive COVID, we still need to secure some much-needed funding as our reserves have run dry.”

The Music Festival budget has gone from more than $1 million a year to approximately $750,000. She said some significant donations were received during the pandemic but those have recently gotten thin and not as regular. It’s not just major donations that have shrunk but the annual music camp revenues have dried up too as Vernon heard people cite that CB lodging prices have become too expensive in the summer, so they decided to pass on the camps.

“We are in a spot where we have enough in the endowment to pay off our bills and if we don’t meet the $100,000 goal we can repay the recent donations,” explained Vernon. “But the money crunch would mean asking employees to work for free and we can’t do that. The board is meeting at the end of the month to decide whether to keep the festival going, change course somehow or just dissolve the festival. We are trying to come up with a creative solution, but we haven’t yet. Unfortunately, the challenges are daunting right now.”

Vernon described the social media email appeal as a “Hail Mary” to see if there is enough community support to keep the festival going. She said the initial feedback has been positive and there have been a lot of support with smaller donations, but the $100,000 figure is needed to get them into the place where they can be assured there will be a 2023 festival. It might be a smaller overall festival and some individual events might have to be trimmed but Vernon said that goal would ensure another season of music in the valley.

“My guess is that we could continue to have some educational events, but we wouldn’t be putting on a full camp,” she said. “At this point, we are just doing what we can to figure it out. I must say it feels good to have such positive feedback and receive dozens and dozens of heartfelt donations. That feels good. We just have a long way to go to make sure the Crested Butte Music Festival will be around next summer.”

Vernon has requested the Music Festival board of directors postpone its decision until October 31 with the hope the $100,000 goal can be reached. The board decided this week to push back their vote until the end of the month.

Email to learn more or find out how you can make a contribution.

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