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Good weather boosts Britt Festival attendance

The Britt Music & Arts Festival is crediting good weather, a lack of wildfire smoke and big-name artists for a strong season.

Attendance grew from 52,174 during the smoke-plagued 2018 season to 58,241 for the season that just wrapped up.

“The line-up offered something for everyone and the weather provided perfect conditions for concert-goers. Our patrons responded with strong attendance and enthusiastic support for Britt’s diverse programming,” said Donna Briggs, president and chief executive officer of Britt.

In 2018, Britt canceled a few shows on its Jacksonville grounds and moved several others inside to North Medford High School’s auditorium when the persistent smoke was at its worst.

The 13,119-acre Milepost 97 fire near Canyonville sent smoke into the Rogue Valley for about one week in July this year, and the area saw occasional haze from other wildfires — but conditions were nothing like the smoke-choked summers of 2017 and 2018.

Britt moved only two concerts indoors to North Medford High School and Bigham Knoll this year.

The relative lack of smoke this summer left people eager to take advantage of outdoor activities, including Britt’s outdoor shows.

“I think there’s no question it helped. It helped the entire valley,” Briggs said.

Although attendance rose to 58,241 this year, a significant jump from 52,174 in 2018, numbers lagged behind previous years.

Britt attendance was 63,640 in 2016 and 60,876 in 2017, according to past reports.

During the 2019 season, Britt presented 29 concerts in its popular Music & Comedy series, nine Britt Festival Orchestra concerts and 10 BrittKids Koncerts.

Nine of the Music & Comedy performances sold out, according to Britt data.

The season included Beatles and Pink Floyd tribute bands and more country acts, including Chase Rice and Brett Young — who were new to Britt — and the traditional sounds of Britt fan favorites Lyle Lovett, Kris Kristofferson and Dwight Yoakam, Britt officials said.

Both reggae tours — headlined by Sublime with Rome and Iration — sold out, officials said.

The season also featured several folk/Americana bands and a strong line-up of rock classics, including Jackson Browne, Little River Band, Chicago, Tramped by Turtles and Cake.

Led by Britt Music Director and Conductor Teddy Abrams, the Britt Festival Orchestra held its standard concerts, plus a new series called Teddy’s Discovery Tuesdays for families and new patrons.

The orchestra also continued its Pub Crawl tradition, roaming through Jacksonville taverns and playing their instruments after their concert on July 30.

Unlike some entertainment venues in the Rogue Valley, such as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Britt kept its ticket prices flat.

“We did everything we could to keep the prices in check and we didn’t have to raise the prices this year. So that was great for our community,” Briggs said.

About 80% of Britt patrons come from the Rogue Valley, with the remaining 20% visiting from outside the area, she said.

Britt is kicking off its membership drive for 2020 on Oct. 1.

On average, ticket sales cover 60% of operating expenses for the Music & Comedy season and 33% of the cost of the Britt Festival Orchestra season, officials said.

A nonprofit, Britt relies on contributed income to cover the gap.

Officials said membership numbers are 13% lower than in 2018, likely due to changes in tax laws that impact non-profit donation deductions.

Business partner contributions increased 13% over 2018, totaling $390,700 and breaking the record for the eighth year in a row.

Grant funding through foundations continued to grow to support operations and expand education programs. General operating grants rose 10% to a $193,850, officials said.

For more information on Britt and its membership drive, visit www.brittfest.org.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

The Beach Boys play nostalgic hits during the 2019 Britt Music & Arts Festival season in Jacksonville. Photo by Al Case/Ashland Tidings