RidgeFest 2012 yielded $27K for area nonprofits

By Kelly White

Last year's incarnation of the area's largest summer festival, despite being a financial failure for only the third time in its history, raised more than $27,000 for local nonprofit organizations.

Chicago Ridge's annual RidgeFest, which last summer was titled "RidgeFest: Reloaded" and featured headlining acts Brett Michaels and James Durbin, distributed $27,268 to groups including the Glenn Maker American Legion Post 1160, the Chicago Ridge Athletic Association, the Our Lady of the Ridge Men's Club, and Chicago Ridge Boy Scout Troop 665.

"We are well around the $1 million mark since 1989 that we have given back to the community," said Chicago Ridge village Clerk Chuck Tokar. "Without all of the volunteers and different organizations that participated, the fest would not have been as successful as it was."

Other recipients of RidgeFest funds included the Chicago Ridge Cubs Scouts, the Chicago Ridge Friendship Club, the Chicago Ridge Park District, the Chicago Ridge Public Library, the Knights of Columbus, Chicago Ridge Village Seniors, the Chicago Ridge Girl Scouts, the Chicago Ridge Brownies, Southwest Ball Hockey and the St. Vincent DePaul Society.

Last year marked the third time in 23 years Chicago Ridge has lost money on the fest. An estimated 26,000 people attended the four-day festival, but village officials anticipated a better turnout. Last year was also the first time the village offered online ticket sales.

"We really thought that selling tickets online would increase ticket sales, and we would sell a lot more," Tokar said. "Unfortunately, the bigger bands did not bring in larger crowds."

Securing contracts with Michaels, front-man and lead singer of the rock band Poison, and Durbin, a former "American Idol contestant," prompted the village to raise ticket prices for "RidgeFest: Reloaded" but did not draw the crowds officials thought they would.

Trustees on Tuesday suggested the possibility of bringing back bands such as Infinity and Ted Nugent for upcoming fests instead of acts that would demand more money. They also talked about lowering ticket prices for the 2013 fest, with the hope the reduced cost would lead to better attendance than the past three years. The village still plans to sell tickets online.