Catch up on the hottest news items of the of the year with the Observer’s Digital Year in Review.
On paper, it seemed like a good idea: a three-day festival starring iconic bands such as Alabama and The Guess Who, a crowd of 20,000 or more people and a fun, creative way to raise money for local charities.
But participants of the Ranch Jam music festival held March 20 through March 22, in Myakka, are still reeling in the aftermath of a failed event that left local vendors owed more than $100,000 total, and one nonprofit out $2,700.
“It’s an unfortunate circumstance,” said Jamie Dunnam, director of the benefiting charity, Gig’s Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit that raises funds for a cure for leukemia and lymphoma and assists families of children with cancer. “I don’t think it was intended to turn out this way. We were to receive above and beyond.”
Gig’s Legacy pulled the liquor permit for the Ranch Jam event, saving Ranch Jam LLC permitting costs and time, in exchange for 15% of proceeds from beer and wine sales. But the nonprofit hasn’t received any funding and even ended up paying the bill to Gold Coast Eagle Distributing to comply with a law requiring the business to be paid within 10 days, Dunnam said.
“We have a really good relationship over there,” Dunnam said, adding Gold Coast donated some of the product used at the event. “We made the payment to stay in good standings. Unfortunately, it put us back. It doesn’t allow us to help as many families as we’d like.”
But Gig’s Legacy isn’t the only organization that’s owed money. Ranch Jam owes Linger Lodge restaurant, which provided food and snacks for the bands and others in the VIP tent, $7,700 — and that doesn’t include services Linger Lodge completed but were not part of the original agreement. David LaRusso, general manager, said Ranch Jam also failed to provide volunteers as promised, which drove up labor costs; he didn’t charge for the difference or services provided not included in the original agreement.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office supplied 15 deputies and is owed approximately $5,000. Both Linger Lodge and the sheriff’s office will pursue legal action to recoup monies, representatives said.
“I can empathize with them, but that’s not my fault,” LaRusso said. “If they served more people, I wasn’t going to get more. This was them hiring us to provide labor and expertise. It isn’t right.”
But David Wilcox, attorney for Ranch Jam LLC, said likely no funds will be coming.
In a letter to creditors, sent from Wilcox’s office, Ranch Jam wrote: “Despite great spring weather and top-notch entertainment, Ranch Jam 2015 was not a success … As a result, no funds are available to be distributed to Ranch Jam creditors … The organizers of Ranch Jam 2015 share your disappointment as they have lost the hundreds of thousands of dollars they committed to the project.”
Wilcox, in an interview with the East County Observer, said the event was “colossally unsuccessful” and simply didn’t generate revenue.
“It’s not a matter of we’re picking one person or the other (to pay),” he said. “It’s a shame. The people (who organized it) feel badly about it. They understand the problem, but the money is all gone.”
Ranch Jam LLC was created under the heading of Emerging Artists, a company created to help aspiring musicians advance once they completed the Del Couch Music Education Foundation program.
Owners are listed as Wilcox, Bradenton business man Tim Revell and musician Del Couch, who performs with Shaman and The Billy Rice Band and owns Howling Dog Studio.
Wilcox said Ranch Jam was Revell’s creation and neither he nor Couch were involved in the event. He said poor marketing, among other factors, contributed to the event’s failure.
Talent agent Cyndee Boelkins, of Southern Star Productions, said she was not the promoter of the event, although vendors with whom the East County Observer spoke referred to her as the promoter and face of Ranch Jam. She and her assistant handled negotiations for services with Linger Lodge, for example.
Boelkins said she did not handle promoting the event, but did coordinate it. She and her assistant also were not paid because, per their contract, they were to receive a portion of the proceeds.
“I’m a talent buyer; that’s what I did,” Boelkins said. “(Tim Revell’s) job was to pay for everything, and my job was to hire the bands, build it and put it together.”
Couch said the event “puts a black eye” on music festivals in the area.
“It’s not a matter of we’re picking one person or the other (to pay). It’s a shame. The people (who organized it) feel badly about it. They understand the problem, but the
money is all gone.”
– David Wilcox, attorney for Ranch Jam LLC
“I’m upset about the whole thing,” he said. “It just wasn’t handled correctly. They had Alabama and nobody came.”
Couch said he wants Ranch Jam to file a complaint for malfeasance with the state against Boelkins because he believes she did not live up to her promise to draw large crowds. Boelkins also helped organize the first Winterfest, for which Couch’s charity was the beneficiary. He said the event was not as successful as organizers had hoped, either.
“This is the third or fourth event that I know of that she’s been involved with that’s lost money,” he said.
Boelkins said she performed her role.
“It was a great plan,” she said. “Everybody’s looking at everybody else. So, for me, I’ll tell you what I did was buy the talent.”
Jim Strickland, owner of Big Red Cattle Co., said he was paid for use of the property in advance and was pleased organizers kept the property clean. Bands performing also were paid because they typically receive half of their fees up front and the other half the day of the event.
Couch said Revell is a community leader and philanthropist who was blindsided by the promise of good turnout and the ability to raise funds for charity. Revell did not return phone calls to the East County Observer by press time.
“He’s still grieving,” said Couch, sharing how Revell donated more than a dozen iMac computers to his foundation to teach music to students at Manatee School for the Arts. “He’s a generous man. If this thing had been successful, I promise you, he would have (used it to) help other nonprofits.”