Fishers Freedom Festival’s fate in limbo

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FISHERS, Ind. – The future of the Fishers Freedom Festival is uncertain after a committee did not recommend the nonprofit that runs the event get any city funding in 2018.

The City of Fishers' Non-Profit Grant Committee put forth a list of 13 charities this week it recommends the City support in the 2018 budget.

The committee was formed this year and consists of Councilmembers Cecelia Coble, Brad DeReamer and Pete Peterson.

“So we took a look at all applications equally and we tried to take a look at really what they wanted to do with the citizens of Fishers,” committee member Pete Peterson said.

Only about half of the nonprofits that applied for funding got it and the committee focused this year on groups that could help support some of the city’s mental health initiatives, Peterson said.

However, some long-time Fishers residents are frustrated the committee didn’t recommend supporting the festival that has been a staple in the community for nearly three decades.

“You know at one time you knew every family that was there and now it has comes to the point where there are lots of new families, which is good,” Fishers resident Patti Russell said. “I don’t know why it would not have been (recommended) because it’s definitely a plus, a big plus for the community.”

The Fishers Freedom Festival was started 29 years ago and the first year it was held in a field with a couple of tents, founder Rhonda Wright said.

“To me it’s something of family value. It’s kind of a treasured thing for me,” Wright said. “My kids have grown up with the Freedom Festival. They’ve been a part of it. They even helped out, worked with me. Now for my grandchildren, this is something they can remember.”

Freedom Festival Executive Director Jennifer Kehl said in the past few years the City of Fishers has given the festival $85,000 of its approximately $330,000 budget.

Last year, the nonprofit received $45,000 from the city.

Kehl said the group will focus on its two remaining events of the year in September and October and then turn its attention to the fate of next year’s festival.

“If they choose not to continue for whatever reason I’m very highly confident in the mayor and our parks department that they can bring something to bear for the City of Fishers in and around the Fourth of July,” Peterson said.

“Hopefully we can continue to carry this on and everyone is satisfied with what we’ve done through the years,” Wright said.

The list of charities recommended for city funding will now go to the full council for a vote to be included in the 2018 budget.