Fundraiser for Fourth of July Symphony Concert Falters

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Fireworks behind the Governor's Palace in Colonial Williamsburg (Photo courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)
Fireworks behind the Governor’s Palace in Colonial Williamsburg (Photo courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

There will be no encore in 2015 for the Virginia Symphony’s July 4 concert in Colonial Williamsburg.

A fundraising effort to cover the costs of the concert, which had previously been funded by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, came up short of its $31,000 goal.

Funding for the concert was one of several items trimmed from Colonial Williamsburg’s budget for the coming year, as the living history museum seeks to update its programming.

The Virginia Symphony asked the Williamsburg City Council for $65,000 from its $184,000 tourism promotion contingency fund to support the performance, but the city was hesitant to cover the entire cost.

Local restaurateur Adam Steely and Virginia Symphony sponsor Bert Aaron launched a Kickstarter campaign in April to raise funds to keep the concert.

Members of the City Council suggested the city would be willing to offer some financial support to the concert, depending on the success of the fundraising campaign.

By May 15, the campaign had raised $2,346 of its $31,000 goal.

Steely said a quick deadline made the fundraising effort difficult.

“We were fighting a deadline and had to let them know by May 8 whether we would have the funds,” Steely said. “That gave us something like nine days to do it.”

With City Council members making it clear the city would not cover the majority of the concert’s cost, the fundraising effort’s slow start made the concert financially unfeasible.

Councilman Doug Pons, who supported efforts to continue the concert, said it was disappointing for the city to lose the event.

“My sense is still the same — eliminating summertime events doesn’t help to boost summertime visitation,” he said. “Our best opportunities to attract people lays in summer visits. That’s when people have time off and go on vacations.”

Pons added he understood the concert was untenable without significant contributions of private dollars.

“If there’s not money to pay for the concert, they won’t come,” he said. “The symphony doesn’t play for free.”

While there will not be a 2015 concert from the Virginia Symphony, Steely said the fundraising effort had had some success.

“We were successful with getting people on board with the idea of funding the concert,” Steely said.

Steely added he and Aaron planned on launching a similar fundraiser next year to revive the concert in time for Independence Day 2016.

Pons said that effort could see some support from the city.

“Based on what I’m hearing from members of council, we’re excited to hear about any sort of ideas for public efforts to fund it,” he said. “If there’s an opportunity for private fundraising and public money can help push it over the line, we’d be happy to provide some funding for the concert.”

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