A volunteer with the Southland Jamboree has launched a GoFundMe campaign to save at least a portion of the popular summer bluegrass concert series that had been canceled this year due to a lack of funding.
Beth R. Tibbitts, a Jamboree volunteer and amateur mandolin player, started the fund-raising page on Tuesday with the goal of starting the series in July. She set the goal at $8,000, saying she figures that is what would be needed to pay the acts and other expenses such as sound and signs for that time period.
Last week, Jamboree co-founder Billy Sherrow announced the series was canceled this year due to a lack of funds in an email that was reposted on the event's Facebook page. Tibbitts explained that organizers believed they had a major sponsor lined up to cover most of the Jamboree's expenses this summer.
But when that fell through, she said, there was not enough time to regroup and solicit other sponsors.
"I'm kind of glad he did announce he was canceling it, because that has brought such an outpouring of responses," Tibbitts said. "A person in one band said he'd play for free, though we don't want him to have to do that."
Tibbitts had considered a GoFundMe campaign before but said the road block was campaigns have to be attached to a bank account, and she did not want the funds going into her personal account for tax reasons.
Celeste Lewis, who runs the event's venue, the MoonDance Amphitheatre, referred Tibbitts to LexArts, which has agreed to be a financial agent for the campaign. Funds collected by the campaign will go to LexArts, which will in turn distribute those funds to the Jamboree.
Tibbitts said response to the campaign was quick, with $1,500 donated by the time she went to bed Tuesday, the night she launched the page — gofundme.com/c5f72-save-the-southland-jamboree. As of noon Thursday, the campaign had $3,324.
The Southland Jamboree started in a field next to the Collins Bowling Lanes on Tuesday nights, where it ran for nine seasons, until the property became unavailable. Failing to find a space along Southland to move to, the event moved to the MoonDance at Midnight Pass Amphitheatre in the Beaumont neighborhood, and that is where the Jamboree has played the past three years on Monday nights.
While Tibbitts says MoonDance has been a great venue for the event and very accommodating, she acknowledges there has been a desire by Southland area residents and merchants to bring it back to the neighborhood.
She also noted the event had a larger financial cushion when it was in Southland, though she adds that a number of the Southland Drive businesses that supported the event in the beginning have continued to support it since it moved to Beaumont.
"We would love to bring it back to Southland," Tibbitts said, "it's just a matter of where."
In the heat of the summer, she said, organizers don't want to have it on parking lots, and other open grassy areas they looked at presented issues of parking, access or accommodations. But, she added, they hope to continue looking at options for future seasons.
But for now, the focus is on presenting this season, albeit abbreviated.
Tibbitts has not put a time limit on the campaign, but she says they will need to make a call on moving forward later this month. At this point, a schedule for this year had not been set, though organizers have heard from a number of artists wanting to play.
The Southland Jamboree has primarily presented regional bluegrass talent, but some national artists such as Dale Ann Bradley and Michael Cleveland have made it a regular stop.