Britt Festivals attendance declines slightly compared with 2012 season

Attendance during the 2013 Britt Festivals was slightly down from last year, but more concerts sold out and average attendance per show increased, the Britt Festivals reported today.

The festival presented 35 concerts on the hill in Jacksonville this summer, bringing in overall attendance of 60,726 people for an average attendance of 1,735 per concert, Britt officials reported.

In 2012, the season included 37 concerts, which had a total attendance of 61,375 for an average of 1,659 people per concert. In 2011, 40 concerts drew more than 62,000 people to the hill, averaging 1,550 per show.

In 2013, 13 concerts sold out, up from 12 sold-out shows the previous year and eight in 2011.

Operating expenses and total revenue figures weren't yet available, said President and Chief Executive Officer Donna Briggs.

Briggs said the most talked-about shows included Rodrigo y Gabriela, Jake Shimabukuro and the rock legend Robert Plant.

"The booking process is a complex one, and while it's not possible to land every offer we put out there, we were pleased with some of the big acts we got, and are grateful for the response in ticket sales," she said in a release. "As we look to next year, we also know we need to keep building on that success, and keep striving for a diverse, fulfilling mix of acts."

Ticket sales cover 60 percent of Britt's operating expenses, on average, for the pops season and 33 percent for the Classical Festival. Britt relies on contributed income to cover the gap and has been working to increase those contributions. Business partners contributed $214,000 this year, a 22 percent increase over the $175,000 donated in 2012. Grant support increased by 27 percent, from $127,000 last year to $161,000 this year, festival officials reported.

Britt completed a capital campaign for a new, $823,000 performance garden, which will include a new performance space with seating for 150, improved Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility, restrooms and entrances and additional concessions. Final approvals and construction on that project are expected this fall, officials said.

This week, the festival expects to name a new music director for the Classical Festival. Three candidates — Mei-Ann Chen, Teddy Abrams and David Danzmayr — auditioned this season, each conducting a weekend of concerts.

Highlights in the Britt's education and community engagement programs included an all-ages ukulele workshop, the popular Rock Camp, the new modern chamber music camp with Project: Beyond the Page and the Rising Stars Competition for local musicians.

Heavy smoke from wildfires around the region during the Classical Festival forced Britt to move a concert indoors for only the second time in its 51-year history. As a result of the smoke, Britt incurred unexpected moving expenses of $10,000 and lost expected ticket revenue of $30,000, officials said.

Note: Subhead was changed to more accurately reflect the effect of smoky skies on attendance.

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