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BBQ festival finances turned corner in 2013 

BY CORIANNE EGANcegan@paducahsun.com

After two consecutive years of taking a loss and one year barely in the black, the Barbecue on the River Festival came away from the 2013 event with nearly $30,000.

Barbecue on the River, Inc. released 2013 financials on Monday.  Fees from each of the 40 barbecue teams and 45 food vendors that participated in the festival last year would have left organizers in a financial deficit, but non-food vendors more than made up for the income gap. As a result, the festival was able to carry over $29,510 - money that will be used to plan this year's festival.

"This was, thankfully, one of the years we have made money on the festival," founder Susie Coiner said. "Some years, we haven't. When the rains come or in the beginning (years), we weren't always making money. But we looked at ways to tighten our belts."

Financial statements released on Monday include 990-EZ forms submitted to the IRS from 2009 through 2012. In 2010, the form shows the festival $5,728 in the red. In 2011, the deficit deepened to $8,334. Organizers were able to come out of the 2012 festival on top, but by only $1,229. But in 2013, that number ballooned to $29,510.

The spreadsheets show that organizers spent $108,710 in 2013 to host the three-day festival in September. The $39,926 raised from all direct participants - food vendors and barbecue teams' entry fees, administrative costs, utility costs and parking - covered less than half of the costs. Barbecue organizers raised $98,294, however, from non-food vendors, which gave them a substantial gain. 

Coiner said the $29,510 goes into the festival's general fund, which will be used for cash flow for the 2014 festival, which will be Barbecue on the River's 20th year.

Coiner also noted that whenever festival planners have services to pay out, they contract with non-profits in the area. For example, cleanup services are done by Greater Paducah Sustainability Project in exchange for $1,800, and parking is handled by the McCracken County Softball team for a fee as well.

The financials released on Monday do not include in-kind services that the city of Paducah donates. The city released those donations in a report last week. Counting employee hours, equipment usage and city services, the city spent about $142,000 on the three-day festival.

The four 990-EZ forms are part of Barbecue on the River, Inc.'s push to get its non-profit status reinstated. Organizers submitted the forms to the IRS earlier in the month. Barbecue has not had non-profit status since 2012 mainly due to improper filings.

Income taken in by each barbecue team and donated to charity is collected by the individual teams. Every team is required to fill out an accountability form at the end of the festival to show how much is being donated to the charity it cooked for. Most years, the total has been between $350,000 and $400,000. Teams and the non-profits they donate to work out different agreements, Coiner said, which could mean portions of sales, hourly donations or a lump sum of the booth's proceeds.

Some teams donate their entire income after expenses. Others donate only a quarter or half of their income. Each team has 30 days after the festival to turn in its accountability form.

Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.

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