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Music festival gets 15% of request from city

[04/17/01] The first Vicksburg International Chamber Music Festival Monday was awarded 15 cents of each dollar requested in City of Vicksburg support.

Separately, the Vicksburg Soccer Organization was granted the $1,000 it requested for the West Mississippi District Soccer Tournament in Vicksburg this week.

Last week, Frances Koury, a member of a committee that helped organize the concert series, presented a request before Mayor Robert Walker and North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young asking the city for $10,000 to bring classical musicians here. Walker pledged an answer Monday, and it came in the form of a vote for $1,500.

“This is done not because we feel like we are under pressure to,” Walker said in reference to a $40,000 bass tournament allocation in March that sparked objections. Although some have said the money will be recouped during the Memorial Day weekend event, many have said that the amount is excessive. When Greenville was host, the allocation was $6,000.

South Ward Alderman Sam Habeeb, who had voted against spending the funds for the fishing event, agreed with Walker about the request for the concerts, saying that it is a dangerous precedent to provide large sponsorships to every event that comes before the board.

Habeeb said he believes $500 to $1,000 would be more appropriate for the concert series expected to draw audiences of about 200 for each of the eight performances. Young said she also favors an amount closer to $1,000.

“I think that $10,000 is rather excessive,” Habeeb said. “It’s going to be a nice event, but I really don’t see it bringing as many people as the soccer tournament.”

“My thinking is that this is a cultural arts kind of thing and you usually don’t expect the numbers to attend that you do with athletic events,” Walker said.

Organizers of the youth soccer events planned for this weekend said about 88 teams in Vicksburg for the three-day tournament are expected to bring about 3,000 to the city. The games are in a different Mississippi city each year.

While Habeeb and Young both said they support lower amounts for the concerts, Walker said the performances will be a quality-of-life attribute to the city and pushed for the $1,500.

Koury said that although the amount is much less than requested, she is not disappointed.

“Hopefully, next year it will be in the budget at a larger amount,” she said.

The Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau has paid $1,500 for the printing of 8,000 brochures to advertise the event. Other groups sponsoring the music festival include the University of Southern Mississippi, the Vicksburg Warren Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Foundation.

The chamber music performances start Monday and will continue through April 29.

Walker said the city should consider setting guidelines for how city funds will be spent to sponsor future events.

“We need to set some very clear parameters for advertising,” he said.

Walker has rebuffed criticism that the fishing organization primarily has black members. He has said the criticism is politically motivated. There are four known local members, all of whom live outside Vicksburg’s city limits and two of whom have been identified as past contributors to election campaigns of Young and Walker.

The allocation of $40,000 was a first, eclipsing city support historically for the Miss Mississippi Pageant that brings thousands of people here for a week each summer and consuming more than three times the $12,000 city officials budgeted for advertising this fiscal year.