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July 08. 2013 9:29PM

Prescott Park Arts Festival asks donations for upgrades in Portsmouth

PORTSMOUTH — Prescott Park Arts Festival officials have raised $660,000 and are looking to the public for the other half of a proposed $1.3 million project to upgrade the Seacoast site.

The festival has featured family-friendly performance arts offerings on an outdoor stage in city-owned Prescott Park for 39 years. Festival Executive Director Ben Anderson said for the first time in the organization’s history, it is asking for help from supporters for improvements; they would be completed in time for the 40th season in 2014. In the past six months, fundraising efforts have garnered private donations, a city gift of $200,000 and Community Development Finance Authority tax credits, he said.

The campaign will address long-deferred improvements to kitchen and restroom areas as well as to the stage.

Upgrades to the pavilion, which houses the food concessions and the city’s public restrooms, are imperative, Anderson said.

“The renovations will eliminate the long lines that have plagued the festival, and allow it to hold a standard intermission of 20 minutes,” Anderson said. “These improvements will also make the facilities more family- and handicap-friendly with the installation of changing stations and more accessible units.”

The campaign also will address the need of a protective stage cover to shelter the sound and light systems and scheduled performances from sun and rain, and minimize inclement-weather cancellations due to safety concerns and exposed sound equipment.

“In fact, many potential artists will decline any venue that does not offer a cover,” Anderson said. “In keeping with the current facilities, the new stage cover will be completely removable during the off-season.”

He added: “A stage cover will address and correct safety issues we currently experience with our artists, actors and guests fully exposed to the sun, heat and rain.”

The campaign also puts the focus on the replacement of current amateur lighting, and the addition of a professional-quality sound system. He said the goal is to overhaul the festival’s website to make it more user-friendly and accommodate a higher volume of online requests and transactions.

Every year, more than 250,000 visitors take in performances at the park, Anderson said. There is no set admission fees; the suggested donation at the gate is $5-$10.

For more details about Prescott Park Arts Festival’s Capital Campaign, contact Catherine Wejchert, development director, at catherine@prescottpark.org or call 436-2848.


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