Originally created 09/14/03

2 ethnic groups pull out over fees



There will be no bratwurst or burritos at this year's Arts in the Heart of Augusta Festival.

Both the German Friendship Club and La Asociacion Cultural Hispanoamericana (ACHA) have withdrawn from the festival, citing new restrictions and higher participation costs levied by the festival's governing organization, the Greater Augusta Arts Council.

Herma Schmidt, the vice president of the German Friendship Club, said the fees this year would have been approximately $1,000, compared with about $300 last year.

"We just don't have that kind of money to spread around," Ms. Schmidt said. "The people at the Arts Council were telling us that we weren't doing this for profit, that we were doing it for the people. Well, that's true, but you can't go in the hole, and if you can't get your money out, which is what would have happened, it isn't worth it."

Denise Traina, the director of communications for ACHA, said financial concerns also kept her organization from participating.

"It's just basically that it was such a radical change from previous celebrations," she said. "For our volunteer group to come up with that kind of money, when we don't make a lot of money off this, is hard. We just didn't have those kinds of financial resources."

Brenda Durant, the executive director of the Greater Augusta Arts Council, said the higher participation costs reflect changes in the festival aesthetics and infrastructure.

"What we are trying to do is make Arts in the Heart a destination festival," she said. "In order to do that, we had to lay the groundwork, which meant working on the appearance of the festival. Part of that is uniform tents, which we will be supplying. It's going to be the same all over the festival, and what we did was take those charges and pass them on to the ethnic groups and artists."

Other changes include rain gutters on all tents and menu boards and banners with each ethnic group's country of origin on them, which the Arts Council also will supply.

Ms. Schmidt said the Arts Council also had informed them that they would be unable to sell beer and would have to submit a menu for approval.

"They were telling us they were going to judge the food to make sure it was authentic," she said. "Imagine the German club not knowing how to fix German food. And we've always had beer. Beer just goes with our food."

Ms. Durant said the beer and menu issues are not new restrictions, and that the Arts Council always asks for menus and entertainment schedules and always grants the beer concession to the event's host nation, which is China this year.

"The Germans have never been allowed to sell beer unless they are the featured country," she said. "Last year, they were the featured country. That has always been the rule. It's the rule I inherited when I got here."

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Arts in the Heart of Augusta, a celebration of visual and performing arts with live entertainment, art activities, ethnic food, costumes and a Parade of Nations

WHEN: 5-9 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Augusta Common, 800 block between Reynolds and Broad streets

COST: $3. Call 826-4702 for more information.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.