Norwich bluegrass festival short $25,000 in funding

Norwich — The four-day Podunk Bluegrass Festival, which starts Thursday at the Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium, is seeking last-minute sponsorships to close what started as a $25,000 funding gap caused by the loss of East Hartford area corporate donations when the event left that city.

Podunk officials announced in February that the event would move to Dodd Stadium after efforts to keep it in East Hartford fell through. Event organizers were thrilled at the new venue, a 6,000-seat minor league baseball stadium with a pristine lawn for seating and stages, skyboxes for workshops and an expansive parking lot for cars and campers.

But the late move proved difficult for corporate sponsorships, said festival producer C. Roger Moss, now the Norwich recreation director. Many corporations and their nonprofit foundations had already established their budgets and spent their sponsorship dollars for the year.

Podunk faced a $25,000 funding gap, and festival officials also hope to start raising money for next year's festival, ideally to remain at Dodd Stadium, Moss said.

The Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce supports that effort. Board member Theodore Phillips sent an "urgent" email plea to members Tuesday announcing that Podunk sponsorship through the chamber's own foundation — the Greater Norwich Area Business/Industry Foundation Inc. — is seeking last-minute donations in time to place donors' names on the chamber banner to be hung at the festival.

Phillips said local businesses have been responding with more than $8,000 in donations through Tuesday afternoon, with 20 percent of total donations remaining with the chamber foundation in a joint fundraising effort.

"The chamber recognizes that this is a great opportunity for northern New London County to showcase itself," Phillips said. "It can have long-lasting effects for the region."

Moss said the festival received other donations in addition to the chamber's efforts but could not provide an updated total as of Tuesday evening.

"We're trying to get it in place before the festival, so we have it," Moss said. "Realistically, we want to start working on next year."

To donate through the chamber foundation, contact Phillips at TPhillips2@aol.com.

The festival also accepts direct donations through its website at podunkbluegrass.net.

Both organizations are nonprofit and tax exempt.

c.bessette@theday.com

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