Sactoberfest organizer to file for bankruptcy

From The Sacramento Bee - October 24, 2014

Elmets said the TBD Festival, held at the same riverfront location a weekend earlier than Sactoberfest, forced young ticket buyers to choose.

“The TBD sucked up all the oxygen. By the time Sactoberfest rolled around, there wasn’t as much interest. When you have a demographic with limited income, they don’t have the luxury of going to festivals two weekends in a row,” Elmets said.


Citing a lower-than-expected turnout, the organizer of the well-publicized Sactoberfest event said he’ll file for bankruptcy protection after revenue didn’t cover costs this year.

“We’re upside down,” said organizer Rich Clakeley. “I owe more than I have to pay.”

The event, in the tradition of Germany’s Octoberfest, was held Oct. 10-13 in West Sacramento along the Sacramento River. Despite taking a loss last year, Clakeley felt he had an idea Sacramento would support and expanded Sactoberfest from two to three days.

Clakeley said he projected drawing 8,500 people over the three days. The break-even point was 6,000 paid attendees, but the event drew 4,700. There was also a marked drop in beer consumption from five beers per person to three beers this year, he said.

In accordance with bankruptcy rules, he said his employees would be paid first, followed by independent contractors and larger businesses. He said it’s also unclear how much money there will be for the charitable organizations that supplied volunteers. In an Oct. 21 letter informing creditors and others of his plan, he said that most of the staff were hired as independent contractors.

“I’ve never been in this position. I’m a guy who pays his bills,” said Clakeley, who started his Orangevale-based event company Finrich Events after a long career in events in San Diego.

Runnin for Rhett, an Elk Grove-based charity, provided scores of adult volunteers and expected to be paid $8,600 – $10 a hour for each volunteer hour.

Randy Seevers, the charity’s executive director, said he has no idea how much of the money the organization will receive.

“There weren’t any indications that he wouldn’t be able to fulfill his obligations,” Seevers said.

This year’s Sactoberfest seemed primed for success with participation from Sacramento Republic FC soccer club, Xoso sports league, the Active 20-30 club and NorCalBrews.

Last year, firsthand reports suggested the event came up short on food and local beers after organizers underestimated demand. It drew 3,000 people. This year, attendance lagged, especially Sunday, which was touted as a family day. Tickets ranged from $30 to $95, prices attendee Erin McGuire found steep.

“The band was really fun, but I was still bitter from having paid $30 to get in, so my enjoyment was clouded,” McGuire said. “Fifteen to park is outrageous.”

The event also was the victim of an increasingly crowded local entertainment space, which now includes competition from Indian casino concert venues, said Doug Elmets, a local business consultant. Earlier this year, organizers of Stockton’s Asparagus Festival called it quits amid dwindling crowds and rising costs.

“We have a beer festival every week practically; it’s hard to cut though the noise,” said Dan Scott, who runs several Sacramento beer events including Sacramento Beer Week. “Throwing an event is a giant gamble.”

Elmets said the TBD Festival, held at the same riverfront location a weekend earlier than Sactoberfest, forced young ticket buyers to choose.

“The TBD sucked up all the oxygen. By the time Sactoberfest rolled around, there wasn’t as much interest. When you have a demographic with limited income, they don’t have the luxury of going to festivals two weekends in a row,” Elmets said.

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