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Archive for Friday, May 1, 1998

FALLS SHY OF GOAL

May 1, 1998

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The organizer of Omega '98 says the music festival was a success despite the bills that remain unpaid.

Omega '98, the outdoor music festival that set up shop Friday and Saturday on the Terry and Helen Cox farm northeast of Lawrence, has ended on a sour note for some service providers who were not paid and a charity that has yet to receive any money.

David Cade, director of the Pelathe Indian Resource Center, the charity that was to benefit from the festival, said he is disappointed in the operation and outcome of Omega '98. The center has not received any money from the benefit concert and probably won't.

``We didn't raise enough money to pay for bills, let alone give any away,'' said Chuck Baker, president of Omega Foundation, the entity that organized the festival.

News releases distributed by Baker prior to the event said the nonprofit festival's goal was to raise $40,000 for the center ``provided that we have a sold-out show and get the corporate sponsorship we are seeking.'' The center owes $40,000 on its mortgage.

Cade, who has not spoken to Baker since the event, said an Indian taco booth that Haskell Indian Nations University students manned over the two days made just enough money to pay for its supplies. The students returned to the site Sunday morning, Cade said, because they had volunteered to clean up the site and ``wanted to keep their commitment.''

Jeff Jacob, owner of Innovative Security, is ready to take action against Baker.

``If we are not paid by Friday, we will send it to collections,'' he said, adding the company has been paid 25 percent of its fee.

The Lawrence company was hired to provide security at the site, but on Saturday it became apparent the organizers didn't have enough money to pay the firm.

Jacob said he considered pulling all security employees from the site, but instead decided to cutback manpower. Fourteen employees were on duty Friday. That number was reduced to nine on Saturday, and then to four by midnight Saturday.

Jay Waller, president of Stagepro, which was hired to provide the stage and lights for the festival, said his company wasn't paid in full either.

``We were paid one-third,'' he said, adding that a Stagepro semi truck loaded with equipment was still at the farm Wednesday afternoon because it was stuck in a muddy field.

Baker said Omega '98 turned out ``real good, except ... a few people are not getting paid.'' He pointed out that two of the bands -- Common Ground and Joe Moon -- agreed to perform Saturday night even though they knew he could not pay them. One band -- BCR -- decided not to perform when its members learned the money had run out.

Baker said the festival sold 948 tickets and needed to sell 1,800 to break even. He blamed the poor turnout on one of the Coxes' neighbors who allegedly removed signs directing traffic to the site and to a controversy that erupted a couple of weeks ago when former Omega committee members distanced themselves from Baker's group.

When asked how much money he lost, Baker said, ``I'm not exactly sure. We're still assessing the damage.''

In addition to the unpaid bills, a report filed by Baker with the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Department indicated that equipment rented by Omega organizers from Anderson Rental was stolen. According to Sgt. Charles Yates, the report, filed at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, listed a golf car and a generator as missing.

Yates said the sheriff's office had no leads in the case. Bill Anderson, of Anderson Rental, would not comment about the festival or the theft.

Still, not everyone is upset with how they fared. Helen Cox said she had an informal agreement with Baker to be paid for the use of her land and didn't care that she had not received any money. She plans to let Baker use the land for future music festivals.

``It was a big party and all my friends got in free,'' she said. ``There were no problems. No one got rowdy. It was a mini-Woodstock.''

Bart Shoemaker, of Legend Sound, said he received partial payment for his services but didn't expect to get paid in full. Shoemaker said he has worked enough concerts to know to ``bid them high'' because it's ``not unusual for there not to be enough money to go around.'' He described those companies and bands who expect to get paid in full as being ``naive.''

Joe Comparato, who promotes music concerts and performed at the festival with The Deals, said he thought Baker did a good job of organizing the festival, considering it was the first one he'd tackled. However, he disagreed with the notion that service providers should not expect to be paid.

``I've been involved in some losing situations,'' he said, ``but we always paid off and the loss was built into the next event.''

Baker said his group plans to stage a Grateful Dead Tribute concert on Aug. 8.

-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is jbiles@ljworld.com.

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