Country music singer Eddie Rabbitt might have loved a rainy night, but organizers of last weekend’s 17th annual Market Street Festival could have lived with a little less of the wet stuff — or a little more, depending on your point of view.
Friday night’s concert, typically a money-generator, was canceled — to the tune of around $40,000 — when a slow-moving cold front pushed through the area, bringing heavy rain and plummeting temperatures. The only problem was that it didn’t rain enough.
For the past few years, Main Street Columbus has purchased rain insurance coverage, which protects against lost revenue from events canceled due to inclement weather, but there’s a catch: The policy purchaser must specify the hours coverage is needed and the amount of rain accumulation that must occur during that time period for the event to be negatively impacted.
In other words, if it’s going to rain, it better pour.
This year, Main Street Columbus paid $1,175 for a $25,000 policy, with coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m. — when Dawn Barham and the Juke Joint Gypsies were to take the stage — and ending at 11 p.m., when headlining rockers Mother’s Finest were expected to exit the stage.
The policy stipulated it would only pay if it rained at least one-third of an inch, but the rain total in downtown Columbus for that time period was only around a quarter of an inch, WCBI Chief Meteorologist Keith Gibson said Tuesday afternoon.
Based upon festival committee chairman and former Main Street director Amber Brislin’s figures, they were anticipating that between 2,000 and 3,000 people would pay $10 a ticket to see the two bands perform. In addition to ticket sales, they also expected to make between $8,000 and $10,000 selling beer and soft drinks.
The money would have been used to offset the $10,000 fee for the entertainers, who still had to be paid even though they never played the first note.
But while the lost revenue from Friday night’s rainout will not be recouped, canceling the concert was the right decision, Main Street director Barbara Bigelow said Tuesday.
“The weather had been threatening all day,” board president John Brady said. “Late in the afternoon, it got very cold, very windy and very, very rainy between 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. The rain was coming in sideways; the equipment onstage was getting wet. We felt like it was unsafe.”
Most spots received one to two inches of rain Friday, Gibson said, but not in the time frame stipulated by the insurance policy. The rain began around 1 p.m. and intensified between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Within a few hours, the temperature had dipped from the 70s into the 40s.
“It was just a prolonged rain event — a raw and nasty evening,” Gibson said. “If the clock had started a little sooner, that insurance would have been a no-brainer.”
But the weekend was not a total washout. Unlike the 2011 Market Street Festival, during which attendees sweltered in 90-degree temperatures, temperatures were pleasant Saturday.
“The weather was beautiful, a little cooler than normal,” Brady said. “We could not have asked for a better weather day. The festival on Saturday was as good a festival as we’ve ever had. A beautiful day, very good turnout — it seemed to be a very good crowd.”
Organizers are still tallying the total attendance and revenue, Bigelow said.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.