Along with the continuing slide in the local, state and national economy, entertainment, such as the Azalea Festival, is taking a particularly hard hit, he said.
“Some businesses and organizations that sponsored the festival last year, and the years before, are not going to sponsor it this year,” Gantt said. “We are coming up short financially.”
Earlier, the committee had decided to broaden the festival’s days in adding musical entertainment and carnival rides for Thursday evening in kicking off what they had hoped to be a great beginning to the anniversary of 25 years of Azalea Festivals, he said. But with limited funds coming in, the sounds of music will be silent that night, Gantt said.
“We had to pull the musical entertainment but the rides are still coming in for Thursday night,” he said.
In addition, the large tent, which for years covered the street near Center Stage and sheltered festival goers while they rested from touring the event or enjoyed the entertainment, will not be provided this year due to financial constraints – unless a patron steps up to the plate in funding the rented dome, Gantt said.
“It’s going to be tough this year, and we really need more sponsors,” he said.
But even though money may be a bit tighter in 2009, the committee is planning for the festival to be the best one yet, Gantt said.
With the blessing of city leaders in Pickens, the Azalea Festival will be larger when it opens on Saturday morning, April 18, with the event extending down Main Street, closing U.S. 178 to traffic, and giving the festival the much needed space to encompass not only additional food and arts and crafts vendors, but to include more entertainment, he said.
During Saturday’s day-long event, a new stage will be added at the west end of the city, allowing local musical groups the opportunity to showcase their talents, Gantt said.
“There is so much talent in this area, and this will give them the chance to show it,” he said.
Bands interested in performing at the 2009 Azalea Festival on a volunteer basis should drop off a media kit at the Pickens Chamber of Commerce offices, or email the information to azaleafestival@ pickenschamber.org, Gantt said.
“Even though we are all facing economic hardships, this year’s festival is going to be a great event,” he said. “Already we have more vendors and more artists signed up, and the entertainment we have lined up is great.”
The Tams, known for their beach music style and rhythm and blues sounds, will take Center Stage on Friday night, entertaining the crowds following the annual Cruise-In.
With several Billboard Chart hits under their belts, The Tams is known for award wining tracks such as “Be Young, Be Foolish,” and “What Kind of Fool.”
Saturday night, Jason D. Williams will present a concert of musical hits on stage, with a piano performance of a variety of music covering classical, to rockabilly and jazz, to rock and roll.
“Overall, it is going to be a good year for the festival,” Gantt said. “This is the first year we will have entertainment on three stages and it is all going to be great.
“We are expanding Main Street for the first time, and we will have a variety of vendors,” he said. “All in all, it’s going to be a great festival.”
The Azalea Festival is scheduled for the evenings of April 16 and 17, and will be a day-long event on April 18.