Riviera music fest to lose $300,000, mayor predicts

RIVIERA BEACH Despite rave reviews by the city council, Mayor Thomas Masters predicted Thursday that the city's Eighth Annual Music Festival will lose more than $300,000 once all figures are tallied.

Masters, who refused to reveal the source of his estimate, attributed the potential losses to low attendance, staff time and a sponsorship shortfall. The event, which featured jazz, R&B, rap and gospel music, was held last weekend at the municipal beach on Singer Island.

"The only people who seemed to be making any money are the artists," the mayor said. "The city isn't making any money. I can no longer support the festival."

Assistant City Manager Gloria Shuttlesworth said it's too early to measure the music festival's financial success or failure. City staffers are still compiling ticket sales and staff time, she said.

Once the city calculates the figures, a report outlining the financial cost will be issued. Shuttlesworth said she wasn't sure how the mayor reached his conclusion.

Masters said Thursday that money for the festival could be better spent on housing and job assistance. He and Councilwoman Lynne Hubbard said the city should put the festival in the hands of a private organizer, rather than financing it with city tax dollars.

The council had set a goal of at least breaking even this year after budgeting $723,050 and raising $200,000 from sponsors for the festival. Last year's festival cost $610,223.

Councilman Shelby Lowe questioned the mayor's figures. It's too early to tell whether the event made money, he said.

"I don't know where he's gotten his information from," said Lowe, who pushed for the city to create an advisory board to oversee the festival. "I'll wait to see the numbers."

Lowe also was not completely sold on bringing in a private company to take over the event. He supports splitting the duties between staff and a private producer. He also hopes the event will evolve into something similar to SunFest, West Palm Beach's annual arts and music festival that's run by a nonprofit agency.

"We've tried to farm it out in previous years and ran into a problem," Lowe said. "The city can't continue to fully underwrite it."