A rained out MusicFest this past September has provided Union County with $275,000 in insurance monies. The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders has authorized the County Manager to allocate the cash to the Union County Arts Center for the purpose of contracting talent for MusicFest 2009. The 2008 event was to be for a day and a half with an additional stage which exceeded the county’s usual one day event not only by its physical scope but it’s cost as well. County residents are questioning the expenditure of this money as the new contract with the UCAC for MusicFest ’09 is $175,000 over what was contracted for the ’08 event. What are we to expect this year; four stages instead of three? A three night event instead of the recent aborted two nighter?
One has to wonder how much insurance money was actually received, and perhaps some of that cash should have been used to repair the damage done at the venue, a county park set in a residential area. The torrential rains from the tropical depression which hit the eastern seaboard created a giant mud puddle at Nomahagen Park where hardy concert goers and equipment trucks wrecked havoc on the grass fields before the big night was declared a wash-out. Where did the money come from to repair and replace the damage to the sod which, shown in photos the next day, appeared considerable? The freeholders along with the county manager will of course insist that everything, though admittedly abbreviated, was “wun-a-ful, wun-a-ful”, and a great soggy time was had by all who attended — a fraction of people compared to previous years — and the next time it will be bigger and better than this one.
Newspaper reports immediately following the event weekend carried stories of the bands’ use of foul language and insulting political humor, definitely out of place at a publicly funded event that is billed as a great family day. Several letters also appeared in the local newspapers with regard to encounters over empty VIP bleachers that mere residents were not allowed to occupy and which remained vacant as well as the VIP porta-plumbing reserved for only the royalist of flushes. Questions have also persisted over the event's actual cost to the tax payers, which is difficult to gauge as county employees used comp time and the event played to less than full crowds which cut down on transporting what should have been many more attendees from various parking sites using county shuttle buses had the weather been better.
The entire financial picture for MusicFest 2008 is cloudy, and here the county is embarking on financing and arrangements for the 2009 edition. Perhaps one resident who recently spoke at a county meeting and was quoted in the Westfield Leader is correct when he said that the county should not be spending this amount of money given the “financial and economic problems” the county is facing. He said “it starts at $275,000. Who knows how much it will top out at?” Who knows indeed.