Ichthus Ministries, best known for presenting the Ichthus Music Festival in Wilmore, the first and longest-running Christian pop music festival, has ceased operations after 42 years.
The unanimous decision by Ichthus' board of directors to close was difficult, made only after exhausting all other possibilities for continuing the ministry, Ichthus said in a prepared statement.
Ichthus attorney Mark Nichols said the organization had faced significant obstacles to maintaining financial stability since 2006 due to bad weather, declining attendance, changes in the festival market and mounting debt.
The festival seemed perennially plagued with rain and thunderstorms.
A few years ago, the festival moved from late April to mid-June in hopes of better weather. But it lost some of its followers who preferred the spring date, and it never was able to attract the same number of people in June.
"Crowds started declining, most notably six years ago when we had the big mud fest," Nichols said. "That's when a lot of our financial issues started because of the tremendous expense of putting gravel down, and people wanted their money back."
The gravel cost Ichthus a couple hundred thousand dollars that the organization had not budgeted. "Each year we started out behind and just got further and further behind the eight ball," Nichols said.
Significant cuts were made to staff and expenses as the board sought a buyer for the Ichthus Farm, 111 acres on the outskirts of Wilmore, where the festival was held each year.
The directors thought these austerity measures would place Ichthus on a profitable footing, but that didn't happen. "Ultimately, it becomes a reality that you can't move forward," Nichols said.
The board finally decided it had no choice but to dissolve the organization.
"It was not fair to creditors, patrons and to ourselves to make people think we could do something we couldn't do," Nichols said.
Ichthus has sold nearly 1,000 tickets for the 2013 festival. Nicholas said several people have volunteered to make sure ticketholders who request a refund of their deposit get one. For refund information, go to Ichthusfestival.org/refund.
All assets of Ichthus Ministries will be sold to raise funds to repay creditors. Personal property including farm machinery, office equipment and Ichthus memorabilia — such as T-shirts and signed guitars — will be sold in the next 45 days. A time and place for the sale will be announced.
Competitive bids for the Ichthus name, website and intellectual property will be accepted until 5 p.m. Jan. 7. Bids may be sent to Nichols at email@example.com.
Beverly Fortune: (859) 231-3251. Twitter: @BFortune2010