The Tacoma Tall Ships Organization is considering several ways to pay off its $500,000 deficit from last month’s festival but is also seeking input for ideas, festival co-chair Clare Petrich said.
"We are open to every idea from the community on how to raise these funds," she said. "The ideas we have now are kind of the typical fundraising."
Such ideas include selling the leftover merchandise from last month’s festival, initiating a membership drive and looking for an angel donor who would contribute a large sum or put up matching funds.
The event, which ran July 3-7 along the Thea Foss Waterway, attracted about 300,000 people. But organizers said last week that it ran at a $500,000 deficit because of several factors, the board of directors wrote to supports in an e-mail.
"This event renewed Tacoma’s pride in its maritime heritage," the e-mail read. "Poor weather, a faltering economy and low ticket sales impacted us and we are investigating what we do differently next time."
In a separate e-mail to supporters, the board said it’s committed to both paying the debt and focusing on the return of the ships for a future festival, likely in 2011.
"There’s been a lot of enthusiastic talk and true belief that Tall Ships is an event that this community wants to have," Petrich said. "But we can’t go ahead until we pay off the deficit for 2008. We have to do that first." Tall Ships will operate a booth to sell merchandise at reduced prices at the Maritime Fest on Tacoma’s waterfront on Sept. 13-14.
The organization wants to pay off its creditors as soon as possible, Petrich said, and it has ample time before fundraising for a next festival would begin. Tall Ships began seeking sponsors about 18 months before the start of this year’s event.
Meanwhile, in an e-mail to volunteers and supporters, organizers are highlighting the positives that came from the festival, including:
&bull The Youth on Board program, in which 47 teenagers from Western Washington sailed aboard one of three tall ships from Victoria, B.C., to Tacoma. Five of those participants were also selected to sail from Los Angeles to San Diego aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Eagle earlier this month.
&bull Thirty special-needs youth were treated to an afternoon cruise during the event.
&bull The positive response from the tall ships community.
And the board doesn’t want news of the debt to ruin the legacy of this year’s event.
"In our minds, the festival was a success because of the overwhelming community support it received, the positive reception the crews received, and the hundreds of thousands of visitors who attended and had a great time," one of the e-mails reads. "We provided an extraordinary event for hundreds of thousands of people."