Prescott Park Arts Festival prepares for Portsmouth unveiling of 40th season lineup and site upgrades in June

Union Leader Correspondent
January 08. 2014 11:50PM

As Prescott Park Arts Festival officials ready for a 40th anniversary season in Portsmouth, they also are preparing to construct a new pavilion with updated kitchen and bathroom facilities.

The old pavilion, constructed in the 1980s, came down last fall as festival planners put forth a final push to meet a capital campaign goal of $1.3 million by March for the new one. Around Thanksgiving, local donor Thomas Haas offered to donate $100,000 if the festival could raise an additional $100,000 by the end of the year.

On Tuesday, festival director Ben Anderson said they were still tallying final numbers, but had met that challenge, and then some.

Anderson said the donations put the total money raised so far between $900,000 and $950,000, sending the campaign into the home stretch.

"Our goal is to have everything wrapped up by March, but that is not a hard and fast deadline. It is a goal we set for ourselves," Anderson said of the timeline. "The capital campaign committee, which is comprised \of volunteers, has other projects they want to tackle so they said, 'Let's set this goal'."

Winter Work

Throughout the winter, visitors to the park will continue to see work underway as the remaining money is raised.

"The response and support has been fantastic, so we have full confidence we're going to make the goal and hit the target," Anderson said.

Anderson said the old pavilion was very limited, very tired and very outdated. Long lines often would build outside of the bathrooms, which were also inaccessible to people with physical disabilities and were not family friendly.

"They did not reflect the park or Portsmouth as a community," Anderson said.

It also forced the park to often extend intermission times past the normal 20 minutes to allow people time to use the facilities.

"It was tough to see night after night of these giant lines of people to go to the bathroom, some with small kids. It wasn't acceptable," Anderson said.

The new pavilion will feature larger bathrooms with more fixtures for men and women in addition to a unisex, more accessible, private bathroom. A new feature will be changing stations on both sides.

Overall, the bathroom capacity will double.

Meanwhile, the festival has long since outgrown its kitchen space as well. It used to feature a simple corridor with a counter in front and another in back, along with two sinks and refrigerators. On-site storage did not exist, the menu was limited and the speed at which they could prepare or offer food was impacted.

"We tried bringing in food vendors to assist, but there is a limit on the number of vendors we could bring in because it is on city property," Anderson said.

The new pavilion will feature a full kitchen facility, allowing the festival to offer stand-by favorites including cotton candy, popcorn and hot dogs, and some new options, including salads and wraps.

"It opens up opportunities to do things that align with different programs. We're very much looking forward to that," Anderson said.

Tasty Treats

For now, the festival also intends to maintain its relationship with local restaurants, including the Common Man of Portsmouth and Flatbread Pizza.

"Those partnerships have worked really well ... and we really appreciate their support," he said. "The pizza- and-a-movie (program) with Flatbread and boxed lunches with Common Man — I think people will still be able to find those even with this new facility."

Although the building primarily is used by the festival, it is owned by the city and will continue to be, but Anderson said they had the full support of Portsmouth in pursuing an upgrade, including a $200,000 contribution toward the $1.3 million capital campaign.

The bathrooms are open May through October for anyone who uses the park during the day, in addition to festival-goers.

Raising Funds

The campaign launched last spring and the festival worked to raise awareness through the summer season.

In addition to the building of the new pavilion, money raised through the capital campaign will address some other safety concerns at the park, including the purchase of a protective covering for the stage, which could also mean fewer weather-related cancellations in the future.

Anderson said the fundraising effort also is representative of community goodwill, with donations as small as $10 and as large as leadership gifts of $50,000.

"It's been a full range (of a show of support)," Anderson said. "It really represents what the festival is all about. It's there for everybody."

Anderson said they hope to have the project wrapped up in time for the opening of the 40th anniversary season in June.

"Having the building and campaign done will be a really nice blessing and a great reason to celebrate," Anderson said.


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