FOTW 2018

Gallatin’s annual Fire on the Water Music Festival will return to Lock 4 Park this summer.

Members of the Gallatin City Council said without objection last week that they would like to see the all-day event return for a third year. However, a vote to fund the festival will still be required.

“There is really nothing like (this festival) in Sumner County or really anywhere near Nashville where you have an event that is both on water and on land,” Gallatin Communications Director Jeff Hentschel told city leaders Jan. 14. “If we stop doing it, we lose the momentum that we’ve already gained.”

According to data provided by the city last week, a total of 2,200 people attended the second annual all-day music festival in August – 83 percent more than in 2018. Despite the increase, the city still lost $53,709 on the event, which had a total cost of $98,135.

By comparison, the festival lost $67,649 during its first year. 

The event, which is organized by the City of Gallatin, the Gallatin Area Chamber of Commerce and Sumner County Tourism, was created with the goal of bringing more people to the city and boosting local tourism. 

“Gallatin benefits from it,” District 3 Councilman Jimmy Overton said about the festival. “We’ve seen people in here that we’ve never seen before and that is what tourism is all about. (The question) is just how much is it going to take to do that?”

In addition to an all new lineup featuring 10 bands, organizers made several changes to the festival last year in an effort to appeal to more people. Some of the changes including allowing one re-entry to the event, permitting chairs to be brought into the park and dogs that were on a leash.

This year, Hentschel recommended the city “double down” on the event by using $80,000 to hire just one main act and “a few” smaller acts to help boost ticket sales. The money would come from hotel occupancy taxes the city started collecting last year, which are specifically designated for tourism efforts.

Gallatin spent $50,000 from the city’s general fund account to help book artists for the festival during its first two years. The remaining expenses were paid for with tourism funds, sponsorships and ticket sales.

“What we’ve been missing is a big recognizable name that appeals to many different audiences,” Hentschel added. “Household names that people would get excited about and create a buzz like they do in Franklin (for the Pilgrimage Music Festival).”

In addition to the lineup, some city leaders said last week that they feel the festival’s attendance has also been negatively impacted by the ability to listen to it for free from Old Hickory Lake.

“If you’re going to get close enough to listen to the music… you don’t have to get off (your boat),” At-Large Councilman Steve Fann said. “As long as we have that, I see a problem with it.”

Organizers had hoped to get a temporary dock so that boats could drop off and pick up people from the park last year, but those efforts were unsuccessful, according to Hentschel who hopes the event will eventually become a “completely interactive boat and foot-traffic event unlike anything else.”

“It’s a wonderful venue out there unlike other places,” At-Large Councilman Shawn Fennell added. “We’ve got a golden opportunity and I’d like to continue (having the festival).”

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