Fishers Freedom Festival canceled after 29 years

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FISHERS, Ind. — A decision by the city of Fishers to significantly reduce its financial support of the Fishers Freedom Festival has prompted organizers to pull the plug on the popular annual summer gathering. Word of the permanent cancellation came in a news release issued late Wednesday by the festival’s board.

“We are very proud of the Fishers Freedom Festival’s positive community impact that contributed to Fishers’ overall quality of life,” stated Festival Board President Don Dragoo in the news release. “The decision to terminate the Fishers Freedom Festival was made after many considerations, but is unavoidable due to financial circumstances. We want to sincerely thank all of our past sponsors, donors, vendors, residents, city staff and volunteers that have supported us over the past 29 years.”

In August, the City of Fishers’ Non-Profit Grant Committee chose not to recommend supporting the festival, focusing instead on groups and organizations that could help support some of the city’s mental health initiatives, according to Pete Peterson, member, Fishers City Council. At the time, Festival Executive Director Jennifer Kehl said  the city had given the festival $85,000 of its approximately $330,000 budget. Last year, the nonprofit received $45,000 from the city. Organizers say they had no choice but to shut the event down permanently.

Two current festival fundraisers will continue in the future, according to the release. The annual Fishers Oktoberfest event will be entirely operated by Saxony with FFF volunteer support. The Christmas in October Craft Fair will be run by Fishers Freedom Festival volunteers alongside the Fishers High School Riley Dance Marathon Club who will eventually take over the craft fair.

You can read the planning committee’s letter about the festival here.

The City of Fishers Nonprofit Grant Committee released the following statement about the news:

“The City of Fishers is grateful to the Fishers Freedom Festival Board of Directors and volunteers for their years of service in creating a great community tradition. The City of Fishers and the Parks and Recreation department are dedicated to honoring the Festival’s tradition in future events, including the annual parade.

The City strives to support nonprofit organizations in our community, both financially and in-kind. This year, our City Council created a Nonprofit Grant Committee to evaluate how we support all nonprofit organizations, transparently and fairly, over time. The Fishers Freedom Festival traditionally received half of the City’s nonprofit grant budget in addition to in-kind services, the equivalent to 10 percent of the Fishers Parks and Recreation budget. Through the application process, FFF was unable to demonstrate fiscal independence, and the nonprofit committee felt it was best to allocate the grant dollars to benefit multiple nonprofits in an effort to help a greater number of residents. “

As a result of this reallocation, the Fishers says they are able to support the following nonprofits:

  • Ascent 121 – assistance for survivors of human trafficking
  • Cherish – child advocacy and abuse intervention and prevention services
  • Conner Prairie Museum, Inc. – interactive history park and Smithsonian-affiliate museum
  • Geist Half Marathon – annual marathon fundraiser for youth health and wellness programs
  • Hamilton County Leadership Academy – a community leadership development program
  • Hamilton County Youth Assistance for Fishers Youth Assistance Program – develop and provide access to programs and services that promote positive growth experiences and enhance home and community relationships.
  • Hamilton Southeastern School Foundation – its mission is to bring the next best practices in education home to local students and teachers
  • Janus Developmental Services – provides adult individuals with disabilities the opportunity to participate and contribute within the community
  • Nickel Plate Arts – supports, promotes and provides outstanding arts experiences in Fishers
  • Spaceport Exploration – supports STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math) education that prepares America for the technologies that are shaping the world
  • Youth Mentoring Initiative (YMI) – provides mentoring for students by building and sustaining a mentoring community with the highest level of service, integrity, encouragement, and empathy.
  • City of Fishers Neighborhood Matching Grant – supports neighborhood beautification projects
  • City of Fishers Tree Matching Grant – supports neighborhood tree planting