Portage park officials ponder Elvis offer

2013-12-16T21:00:00Z Portage park officials ponder Elvis offerJoyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | For the last 21 years, Elvis Presley fans have gathered in Portage during October to celebrate the King's legacy and raise money for local Special Olympians.

The organizing force for the Elvis Fantasy Fest, however, has recently changed hands, moving from a nonprofit group, Taking Care of Presley Memorial Benefit Committee based in Indianapolis, to a for-profit company based in New York state.

And, that company is looking for a commitment, Park Superintendent Jenny Orsburn told the Park Board on Monday night.

Sherry Management LLC of Lake George, New York, which promotes Elvis festivals across the country, is seeking a three-year contract with the parks department to continue the event. This year, she said, would be considered the first year with two additional years to follow.

In the past, the parks department has offered the organizers discounts. While the department charged about $4,000 in 2013 for use of the facilities over four days, those rates were discounted because the event is a Porter County Special Olympics fundraiser, Orsburn said.

Board member Ruth Jones, who has been involved in the festival, said the event garners people from all over the country and provides good publicity for the city, in addition to promoting the Special Olympics.

More than 600 local Special Olympians are featured in the event's finale, Jones said, adding she's aware they have considered moving the event from Portage. That move, she added, could leave the local Special Olympians without their major fundraiser.

Jones said she's been told the Special Olympians will remain involved.

Orsburn agreed, but said the parks has to make sure costs are covered. She added that she isn't sure what the new organizer is looking for at this time, beyond a commitment of a date for the next festival.

She told members she would go back to them and discuss with the new promoter exactly what they are seeking before the board makes a commitment.

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