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Funding strain puts annual Madison Regatta in jeopardy

The annual boat race and parade in southern Indiana is facing uncertainty due to the financial strain of COVID-19.

MADISON, Indiana — The Madison Regatta is facing uncertainty with the annual race due to being left in a difficult financial situation with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Event organizers are now looking for new avenues for funding to keep the race going for it's 70th anniversary after being cancel in 2020. 

"I get phone calls all the time from people around us, saying, 'hey what are you guys doing?'" President of Madison Regatta, Matt True said. "Well, right now, we don't know we are trying to make the best financial decision."

True says the 2019 Madison Regatta cost over $563,000 and as of today they only have half of that.

"If COVID hadn't happened, I think we would be in an amazing position," True said. "But it did, so we are still muddling through it trying to figure it out, move forward and get it done"

As of right now, True is planning on having the event. He has filed the paperwork with the Coast Guard and Indiana's Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The question is, will there be enough money? 

True says the event relies on sponsorships and their typical sponsors are not in a position to donate.

"It's pretty difficult for them when they are laying people off and closing their doors to write a check to a festival like us," True said.

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This past Monday, organizers of the boat race and a number of other events held on the weekend including pageants, a 10k run/walk, and the popular Patriotic Regatta Parade held on Saturday evening of Regatta Weekend. asked the Jefferson County Tourism Board for $75,000.

True said the event typically brings in around $1.3 million in revenue each year...and he says to get those numbers there cannot be any limitations.

"We couldn't survive at 70%, 50%, 70, or 80%," True said. "We need 100% participation and 100% sponsorship money. I mean we are approaching 600,00 of the event"

But at the end of the day, it all comes down to whether or not they have the money. True says right now his team is planning on having the event, but if the money isn't there they will have to reassess.

"It's maybe not so much a roll the dice, we are going to make an educated decision on whether we should or we shouldn't, or we can or we can't...based on facts really, we either do or we don't have the sponsorship or the money to get it done," True said.

True and his team were optimistic the funding would come through from the Tourism Board. He says he is focusing on those corporate sponsorships next.

Contact reporter Elle Smith at esmith@whas11.com or on her social media outlets: Facebook or Twitter. 

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