HAMMOND | Last year, more than $200,000 was raised to pay for the musical acts at Festival of the Lakes. This year, the city hopes to do more than that, Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said.
The money comes from private donations from companies that earn VIP access to the festival, which this year runs July 16-20.
Other revenue sources for the free festival come from the $15 parking fee and the sale of $5 cups of beer.
"It's a free festival," McDermott said. "Our goal is not to make huge profits, it's to break even."
This year's entertainment includes reggae legend Jimmy Cliff, country music stars Big & Rich, alternative rockers Sublime with Rome, and the Under the Sun tour featuring Sugar Ray, Blues Traveler and Uncle Kracker.
The mayor wouldn't disclose how much it cost to book the acts, but he said a top headlining band usually costs more than $75,000 for a non-ticketed show.
The fest draws about 15,000 to 20,000 per day, depending on the musical act, he said.
Some people are critical of the money he spends to bring in the acts, McDermott said, but he points to the $8 million amphitheater on Wolf Lake to accommodate concerts that was basically free for the city of Hammond.
"If we're going to have this concert-quality amphitheater, we have to use it," he said.
McDermott said if they bring in lesser-known acts, like cover bands, they'll draw fewer people, referring to a past festival date with cover bands that brought in less than 2,000 people. The amphitheater holds 20,000.
"I can bring in an act that's going to fill the place or an act that's not going to bring in anybody," he said.
McDermott said his educated guess on the security cost for Hammond police officers, which Hammond police Chief John Doughty confirmed, is about $40,000 for the five days.
Doughty said the officers will be paid out of the department's regular overtime account. He said all officers working the fest are hired back, off duty, so their presence at the fest does not affect manpower on the street.
Doughty said they place manpower based on the expected crowd each day, usually based on expected attendance to the particular performer that night.
McDermott said one of the things the festival is known for is being safe.
"I don't want to sacrifice that," he said.