Winter has come early to Appel Farm this year.
Elmer, New Jersey’s Appel Farm Arts and Music Festival will not happen as usual this June, bringing a 20-year tradition to an end.
The suffering economy, along with statewide Arts funding cuts, have made the event a risky financial proposition. Those issues combined with the weather-dependent nature of outdoor concerts and led the organizers to cancel the traditional event, which was set for June 7th at the popular arts and music center.
In lieu of the potentially costly daylong concert, the farm will host a short charity event featuring artists who will donate their time to benefit the center’s Rising Young Artist Scholarship program.
Appel Farm is a community-oriented arts and music center that hosts a concert series, children’s performances, summer camps, and classes, with the yearly highlight being the music and arts festival.
The festival began in 1989 with a modest lineup and grew to become a beloved and musically impressive tradition, featuring mostly folk and blues-oriented artists. The music lineup became more and more eclectic over the years. At first attracting family-friendly headliners like Jackson Browne, Arlo Guthrie, Emmylou Harris, and Randy Newman, recent editions have featured artists as diverse as They Might Be Giants, Ani DiFranco, Fountains of Wayne, North Mississippi Allstars, Little Feat, and Xavier Rudd, along with the usual folk, blues, acoustic, and bluegrass artists.
While the event is not extremely well known in the national music scene, the cancellation has to resonate with other festival organizers across the country. Many are viewing this summer as a true litmus test for smaller, family-oriented music festivals.
The roots and focus of festivals like Appel Farm are based in smaller, relatively intimate community gatherings. This means that they aren’t necessarily in it for the money – but that doesn’t mean they can stand to lose money.
With families tightening their budgets and becoming more selective with entertainment outings, events that may have been breaking even in past years might be faced with losing money. Most of these events fall outside of the spectrum of huge happenings like Coachella, Bonnaroo, or All Points West.
While the folks at Appel Farm have set their sights on the festival’s return in 2010, one wonders if the cancellation of such a long-running event will be a harbinger of things to come.