With Connecticut budget dollars scarce, the Maritime Heritage Festival, which draws thousands of people to the New London waterfront each September, is preparing to scale back this year.
Robin Goldschlager, treasurer of OPSAIL CONNECTICUT INC., the non-profit that runs the festival, said they received $60,000 from the state Department of Economic and Community Development last year to help put it together, but they likely won’t be awarded money this year.
OPSAIL CONNECTICUT is not asking for funding, but is instead collecting donations and will have to make some cuts.
With the fiscal year starting in July, the non-profit doesn’t want to question whether they can afford the appearance fees for ships, Goldschlager said. It costs between $5,000 to $10,000 per ship or schooner.
"Fees are about $50,000 (total). So (it would put us) in a very iffy situation. We're still going to be committed to doing a festival, we're just going to do it a little different flavored,” Goldschlager said.
OPSAIL CONNECTICUT is reaching out to the military to see if they'll bring their ships for people to tour, since it won't cost any money, and will possibly be inviting military bands, according to Goldschlager.
Ronald Dutes owns the new Fatboy’s Kitchen and Bar on Bank Street downtown and his restaurant took part in Chowder Challenge last year. He said the festival brought people into his business so there could be a loss with a scaled back event.
“Anything that's bringing people downtown is better for all the businesses down here. And anyone who lives in the downtown area,” Dutes said. “So, that might hurt a little bit.”
Ed Dombroskas, executive director of the Eastern Regional Tourism District, said the southeastern part of the state is the largest area for tourism in the state and there’s a lot of budgetary uncertainty, so other events might be affected this summer, too.
In 2014, the governor’s statewide marketing budget was about $12 million. The proposed budget for 2018 is $8.3 million.
Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut