JEFFERSON — A determination on the future of the Warriors & Wizards Festival is expected to be made by the Jefferson Common Council at a December meeting.
At that time, a summary report will be presented by Jefferson City Administrator Tim Freitag in relation to the city’s involvement in the festival.
“We will probably have enough information to make an informed decision on whether or not this will move forward and, if so, what improvement might be made,” Jefferson Mayor Dale Oppermann said. “I think there are a lot of people who would like to see it continue. It is too soon to tell what improvements might be needed to get a better result in the future.”
The festival organized by HP Fans Inc. representative Scott Cramer and held with assistance of the city was held Oct. 19-21.
Either Cramer or the city is able to terminate the contract, which otherwise is due to expire in 2022. Notice must be submitted by Dec. 1, according to the contract.
Formerly named the Harry Potter Festival, the event was rebranded to the Warriors & Wizards Festival to avoid any copyright infringement with Warner Bros.
Cramer currently is being investigated by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office for an allegation of issuing a worthless check. The sheriff’s office is conducting the probe due to the city’s financial involvement with the festival.
A $3,500 check submitted for payment for use of the Jefferson Area Business Center failed to clear due to insufficient funds.
In addition, the Daily Union has been in contact with several other service providers and festival staff members who have detailed allegations of Cramer having outstanding unpaid invoices, bounced checks or multiple credit cards in his name declined for payment of services in excess of $50,000.
Both Freitag and Oppermann pointed out that the city has a relationship with the festival and Cramer has a separate relationship with other contractors.
“From what I know of Scott, he will make his best effort to make sure everyone stays whole,” the mayor stated.
Freitag indicated that he was not aware of the festival having any financial difficulties.
“The city and myself really have little knowledge about whatever arrangements, contracts, agreements the festival would have had with things like actors, security and other things like that,” he said. “The festival provided the insurance certificate that it is required to do. At this point, I consider the festival to be in good standing. Would that change if we are not reimbursed by the end of the year? That’s a different question.”
As approved, the existing contract with HP Fans Inc. does include an indemnity clause that shifts potential costs from the city or the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce to HP Fans Inc. for any liabilities, damages, costs or expenses that might arise for damage to property or injury.
An indemnity clause is a common element of contracts, used to shift potential costs from one party to another. The contract between the city and Cramer included the clause requiring HP Fans Inc. to insure the parties in the amount of $1 million per person and $2 million aggregate.
Nevertheless, the city administrator acknowledged some concern with the reports of nonpayment.
“This festival, the way it was organized, succeeds if there is a large number of attendees,” he said. “When you are spreading a festival out over different locations, if you are a festival organizer, you have to secure those sites and you have to move people back and forth between sites.”
Sites included Rotary Waterfront Park, the VFW Hall Recreation Center and Jefferson County Fair Park buildings.
Freitag pointed out that a number of privately-owned operations were probably leased as well, such at the Jefferson Area Business Center.
“I don’t know what that cost is, but I can’t imagine it is necessarily very cheap,” Freitag said. “A festival like this one succeeds if you put a large volume of people into the festival and a large volume attends the festival.”
Last year, an estimated 50,000 people attended the event.
Attendance estimates for this year’s festival included approximately 2,200 people on Friday and about 7,500 to 8,000 people total for the three days, or about 16 percent of last year’s total. Vendors and those in attendance at the festival this year have suggested that the overall total likely was more in the range of about 3,000 to 3,500 people for the entire weekend.
“It is probably something like a three-legged stool where one leg was the weather,” Freitag said. “I have to be honest: I wouldn’t have been going anywhere in that weather Saturday.”
Also, he said his own personal feeling is that the rebranding from Harry Potter to Warriors & Wizards would prompt a drop off of attendance.
“What that number is, I don’t know that anyone could ever tell you,” the city administrator said. “Then I would have to say, you had a lot of negative publicity coming out of the previous year’s festival. I think it is fairly obvious there was a group of folks that throughout the year pretty much continued their attack on the festival. I’m sure that was a contributing factor to it.”
However, overall, Freitag acknowledged that he did not anticipate the festival to have reached the numbers achieved in 2017, even with good weather.
Freitag said the city does have a contract with Cramer for reimbursement of costs associated with the festival, including wages, materials and supplies across various departments.
“We are trying to gather what those costs are,” he said.
Per the contract, the city is to provide Cramer with a detailed summary of the expenditures by Nov. 15.
Also, the contract states that the city’s expense is expected to be approximately $25,000 per festival. It further states that HP Fans Inc. is to pay half as of Oct. 1 with the other half due on Dec. 1.
However, the city administrator stated that he did not envision having the costs until the end of the month.
Freitag said a report would be presented to the Jefferson Common Council at its first or second meeting of December.
“At that point, the festival is either in good standing with the city or it isn’t,” he said. “The city does expect a recovery of those costs.”
For last year’s festival, the city expended a total of $27,692 in materials, supplies and wages across the police department, fire department, public works, EMS and parks. With no clause in place, Cramer did reimburse the city with a check for $25,000 last year.
“I would expect those costs to be about half of what they were last year,” Freitag said. “That is an estimate because I don’t really have my arms around what that number is yet.”
Some city employees were sent home due to the lower attendance levels at this year’s event.
Also, he said Cramer had a better security arrangement through which the city did not have to assist as much in providing security overnight.
“The city is not a part of that,” Freitag said. “I really have no knowledge of what his arrangements were for actors or security firms.”
Freitag indicated that he did not get involved with any financial discussions with those contractors. He said those discussions were maintained between the festival operator (Cramer) and those parties.
Under the contract, the city agrees to provide a contribution of $25,000 to market the event, representing approximately 50 percent of the festival’s marketing budget.
The intent is that the city will be reimbursed from the proceeds of its investment. HP Fans Inc. is to repay the city for its contribution on or before Dec. 1.
Further, in relation to the marketing, Cramer is to provide an itemized marketing budget identifying where and how the city’s contribution will be spent. Subsequently, along with the payment, by Dec. 1, he is to provide an itemized accounting detailing the marketing expenditures with a financial accounting for that year’s festival.
A report issued by Freitag following last year’s festival indicates that only about $9,700 of the $25,000 available from the city for marketing and promotion purposes was utilized.
Completed documentation for the 2018 festival is not yet available; however, the city administrator stated that all $25,000 was expended for marketing.
The Daily Union has submitted requests under the state’s Open Records Law for the marketing records in both 2017 and 2018.
Per the law, a “record” includes contractors’ records. The law states “each authority must make available for inspection and copying any record produced or collected under a contract entered into by the authority with a person other than an authority to the same extent as if the record were maintained by the authority.”
No additional expenditures were made with the exception of the Parks and Recreation Department running the Quidditch tournament and the opening ceremony being under taken by the city.
“Those are things typically we wouldn’t look for someone to reimburse for,” Freitag said.