Despite an expanded footprint and reports of record attendance, it’s unclear whether the Bikes, Blues & BBQ board will make any charitable distributions following the 2011 rally.
Since its inception in 2000, the event, held each fall in Fayetteville, has distributed over $625,000 to local charities. As of mid-January, however, no announcement has come from rally officials as to how much money, if any, will be available to donate this year.
Executive director Joe Giles said various charities were able to raise about $64,000 on their own during the 2011 event, but that it’s too early to tell how many additional dollars will be available for distribution.
“We still have some money coming in, but we also still have some bills to pay,” said Giles. “I expect the board will have some kind of announcement shortly.”
Historically, charitable donations have been announced within a month or two following the late September/early October rally. Last year’s announcement, which included news of $80,000 in donations, came at a Dec. 13 reception at the Fayetteville Town Center.
Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce president and Bikes, Blues & BBQ board member Steve Clark admitted the donations were behind schedule this year and said he was unsure whether any additional monies would be distributed.
“We’re still running some numbers to see what we may be able to do,” said Clark. “I do know that organizations that help us with the rally, like the Fayetteville (High School) Band, who do such a great job of helping us pick up all the trash, have already been paid.”
If funds aren’t distributed this year, it would be the first time donations were suspended since 2008 when the board chose to focus on repaying debt.
Giles said expenses were up last year partially because of the rally’s expansion into Parsons Stadium in Springdale.
“Any time you add a new venue, you expect there will be added expenses that first year,” he said.
He said the addition of staff members also increased costs in 2011.
The board added two full-time employees, after replacing retiring event director Nelson Driver with two individuals – Ben Handford as President and CEO, and Giles as Executive Director.
Handford, however, resigned his position with the organization in late December.
“Ben has decided to operate his own business, and we wish him well with that,” Clark told us Wednesday afternoon. “He did a good job for us.”
According to Clark, Handford’s position will not be replaced at this time. “You know, we really replaced one with three when Nelson resigned, with Joe Giles, Ben and also (Bikes, Babes & Bling event director) Coleson Burns,” he said.
“I think we’re in a good position right now,” he said. “We’re just growing, and we’ve got to figure out how to grow best.”