Wednesday, July 31, 2013

African World Festival: Summerfest Picks Up Tab

At the beginning of his program yesterday, Mark Belling reported that Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. will be fronting the money and providing staffing for African World Festival.

The several ethnic groups that hold festivals on the Summerfest grounds are responsible for raising the money to put on their events.

African World Festival, however, doesn't have the funds. So, Summerfest is paying to keep the one-day event afloat.

Belling spoke with Don Smiley, Summerfest CEO, about the arrangement.

African World Festival informed Milwaukee World Festival in May that they didn't have the money to put on the event. Then, African World Festival told them that attendees of a convention to be held in Milwaukee had planned to attend the fest.

Apparently, the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials (NBC-LEO) is holding their conference in Milwaukee, starting today and concluding Sunday. They agreed to come to the city assuming that the conference would coincide with African World Festival.

Online materials promoting the conference do highlight the fest in the "Why You Should Attend" section.


NBC-LEO Conference Host Joe Davis, Sr., Alderman,Milwaukee, states that “The African World Festival is a celebration of African heritage and culture held on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan at Maier Festival Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since its inception in 1982, the festival’s mission has been to promote and share the culture and heritage of all people of African descent with the global community.

Known as ‘The Meeting Place,’ the African World Festival is not only an entertaining event but an educational
experience. Come and explore the cultural village, sample a variety of ethnic foods, shop around the Marketplace, let the kids play in the Children’s Village, and enjoy lots of great entertainment.”
Although the "Looking Back, Leaning Forward" Events Schedule posted online alerts attendees that it is "subject to change," African World Festival will be up and running for the visitors.

Smiley and African World Festival came up with a plan to deal with the money problems.

The deal: Summerfest is paying for the event, but all the money made at the fest must be paid back to Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. Plus, African World Festival was expected to start raising additional money to pay back Summerfest. Smiley acknowledged that Summerfest may end up losing money.

Why should Summerfest pay?

Smiley says he received no pressure from any city officials or leaders to comply and make the festival happen. (By the way, Mark Wade, relative of Alderman Willie Wade, runs African World Festival.) Smiley claims it was his idea. He didn't think it was good for Milwaukee to disappoint the NBC-LEO.


Would the convention be ruined just because they couldn't attend African World Festival?

I see no reason why Summerfest money should be used to prop up African World Festival to keep a few convention visitors happy. It's not right for Smiley and Summerfest to cut African World Festival such slack and not give the other ethnic festivals similar assistance.

The other groups have to struggle to raise funds and work within their budgets. Events are planned based on the groups' ability to raise the money it takes to put on their festivals.

From year to year, I've noticed changes at the various festivals and have assumed that lack of funds were at play. If the other festivals are expected to function based on their own fundraising and profitability, and make appropriate adjustments, then African World Festival should be held to the same standard.

If I were running one of the other festivals, I would ask Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. for some cash.

This hand-out to African World Festival is not right. Summerfest should not be bankrolling it.

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