Remaining true to thyself is key to survival in every situation and SappyFest has done so, in that it has managed to stay true to its original principles and is succeeding from the perspective of the festival’s fans. However, they have stumbled into financial trouble, ending up fifteen thousand dollars short after this past festival. They do have a plan, though: SappyForever, a “160-page collection [that] will include photos, essays, memories and a visual history of the art and design that has come to define the best days of summer.” SappyFest organizers hope to sell 250 copies, which would leave the festival ten thousand dollars in the black.
The deficit was created out of an “aversion to corporate sponsorship and [a] commitment to [a] vision of a creative and inclusive space.” The festival ended approximately one hundred people short of breaking even, which can be attributed to a lack of reception to the headliners, or the recently increased cost of transportation to Sackville over the last year, among thousands of other factors.
SappyFest co-founder Jon Claytor said a mismatch between expectations and reality was to blame for the shortfall.
“We realized that once people realized there wasn’t going to be an Arcade Fire or Neil Young [performing] every year, that [attendance] would go down, so we budgeted for 800 people,” Claytor said. “The people weren’t there, and we have bills to pay.”
About 700 people attended this year’s SappyFest.
In addition to preferring independent artists, SappyFest’s organizers have also shied away from corporate sponsors for philosophical and aesthic reasons, depriving the non-profit SappyFest of flexibility in its bottom line.
“In a festival you have to stick to your original idea. Stick to your base idea and you will succeed in your heart,” said Anita Overelv, the manager of northern Norway’s Traena festival, while expressing how festivals must operate to survive in a panel discussion at Sappy.
Now the festival is turning to the hearts of those closest to the festival for support.
Despite a strong first weekend for donations, with well over 9,000 dollars were raised, commitments to buy SappyForever have slowed considerably since: donations have yet to double, twenty days after the fundraiser began.
To make up the difference, SappyFest has reached out to the Town of Sackville in hopes that they will purchase fifty copies of the book.
“I think the book itself would be a great thing for the town to promote itself, and to have a record of what’s been going on for the last eight years. We’ve always sold Sackville as much as the musicians for SappyFest,” Claytor said, noting that the Town has supported the festival in the past.
Claytor and the SappyFest team envisioned SappyForever as an inclusive project, soliciting content from festival goers of the past eight years.
“We want the book to be like a hardcopy of the festival. I want the book to be a very similar experience of going to the festival […] the book will be kind of like the high school yearbook, but for everybody who hated high school,” Claytor said.
If Sackville truly loves SappyFest, it’s going to have to show it.