Appel Farm Fest Takes Year Off

New Jersey’s Appel Farm Arts and Music Center has canceled its annual summer festival, citing the ailing economy and a cut in state arts funding as the primary reasons.

“The festival is a risky proposition because it’s weather dependent,” said Appel Executive Director Mark Packer, according to the Star-Ledger. “We are not struggling. Our camp enrollment is running at record levels. But we can’t see beyond the horizon. It’s uncomfortable not knowing how much worse it can get.”

Appel Farm has presented the festival every summer since 1989.

In place of this year’s festival, Appel Farm is presenting “With a Little Help From My Friends” June 7 – a concert featuring Livingston Taylor, Phil Roy, John Gorka and Vance Gilbert to benefit the Rising Young Artist Scholarship program.

The festival cancellation is the latest of several financial problems affecting arts in New Jersey.

The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra has already announced it is cutting nine performances from its schedule. The Paper Mill Playhouse will produce five instead of six shows next year and the Playrights Theatre of New Jersey postponed its last play on its 2008-09 schedule until next season.

And there’s no immediate relief in sight. New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine has already proposed cutting the budget for the New Jersey State Council on the Arts by 25 percent to $14.6 million.

Appel Farm is revising its music festival plans for next year in an attempt to transform it into an event drawing larger and younger audiences. Meanwhile, the June 7 concert should give the arts and music center “a presence in the market” that weekend without costing the farm.

“We didn’t want to go completely away,” Packer. “So many of them have come forward and said ‘We’d love to do this’ and that’s gratifying.”