CivicFest flops in attendance but draws praise for its content

CivicFest wasn’t a big hit — at least financially, although many praised its content.

Many vendors complained that low attendance meant few sales, so the local Host Committee for the Republican National Convention said Tuesday that it will refund the $2,500 space rental fees paid by vendors.

About 70 groups or individuals rented space to sell patriotic items, such as books, hats, shirts and other items.

Organizers said 75,000 people attended, with a substantial number for free. Vendors, however, say they were told to expect at least 150,000 visitors. Some of those attending were schoolchildren, who didn’t buy many items.

Officials dropped the $15 admission fee for the last few days — asking instead for a donation for hurricane victims — following reports of low attendance and vendor dissatisfaction.

Vendors interested in the refund should contact Tami Deihm at tdeihm@msp2008.com.

Many of those who did attend CivicFest raved about the exhibits — which included a finely detailed “doll house” replica of the White House, a walk-though version of Air Force One, gowns of the first ladies, a collection of historical flags and much more presidential and Minnesota history.

The Host Committee also said Tuesday that it will donate $100,000 to six charities that are helping with hurricane relief. The money comes from CivicFest ticket sales and donations received in lieu of admission. The charities are: the Alabama Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund; the Florida Disaster Fund; the Louisiana Hurricane Gustav Relief and Recovery Fund; the Louisiana Aidmatrix Foundation; the Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund; and Texas Responds.

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