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March 18, 2019 1:27 pm

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Preliminary Reports Reveal This Year's Venetian Festival Generated Approximately $58,500 Gross - About $25,000 Net Funds - For Local Charities

   Venetian Festival organizers say they generated a total of approximately $58,600 from this year’s event, including donations, with a preliminary “net” estimate of $25,000 that will be earmarked for local charities.

     “We had a very successful Venetian. There were lots of people in town, lots of exciting (activities), lots of pirates,” Ken Trester, a member of the Saugatuck Planning Commission and commodore at the Cow Hill Yacht Club, told the Saugatuck City Council at the Monday night meeting.

     The Cow Hill Yacht Club, a local 501(c) (3)  charitable organization, ran this year’s Venetian Festival event.

     The money raised, noted Trester, will go towards helping the less fortunate in the area. The club also sponsors the popular Chili Cook -Off in October among other fundraising events throughout the year.

     Trester surmised the Friday night beer tent event and accompanying concert featuring Starfarm was well attended, with anywhere from between 2,000 to 2,500 people enjoying the festivities, including volunteers.

     Preliminary, unofficial reports show the entire festival raised $26,000 in sponsorships and approximatley $33,000 in event sales, according to Saugatuck City Clerk Monica Looman.

     The event sales included such things as beer sales, t-shirt sales, etc. 

     Cow Hill Yacht Club Rear Commodore Sherry Tedaldi said of the estimated $58,600 raised, she expects initial start-up costs and expenditures - once deducted - to bring the approximate net amount raised to around $25,000.

     All dollar amounts provided so far are only estimates until the Cow Hill Yacht Club officials conduct and complete a final accounting  which will be made public, say organization officials.

     “Thank you for giving us this opportunity. This is going to significantly impact a lot of people in the community,” Tedaldi told the Saugatuck City Council.

     The Cow Hill Yacht Club - - with its “A hand up -not a hand out” philosophy - in the past has helped area folks in need pay for their heating bills, provided backpacks with school supplies for children without economic means and given travel assistance to seniors who require medical treatment.

     This past March when the city council was faced with two special applications permits from two different organizers to hold the event -  the Cow Hill Yacht Club and also former fundraiser of the festival Don Karaus Jr.,  - the council chose the former.

     It did so citing Cow Hill had a proven track record of “giving back to the community” and a legitimate IRS 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt designation, versus questionable past practices on the part of Karaus, a Ganges Township resident.

     Several investigations into the matter revealed Karaus could not account for funds raised in the events he organized in past years and the fact that he misled local citizens and donors by putting on brochures that his fundraising organization was an IRS-approved 501 (c) (3) organization when in fact he knowingly had never applied to the IRS for that designation.

     Local residents and tourists were warned not to make donations in support of the festival to anyone posing as a representative of the festival unless they were approved and appointed by the Cow Hill Yacht Club.

     Tens of thousands of dollars in cash generated from the annual event under Karaus’ watch remain unnaccounted for and undcoumented to this day.

     Depending on who he was speaking with, Karaus in the past has claimed the Venentian Festival beer tent and other fundraising activites he oversaw either generated little or no net funds to give to local charitable organizations.

     This year - the first time the Cow Hill Yacht Club took over from Karaus - the weekend-long Venetian event has reportedly clear almost $25,000 in net funds.

     Several local government officials say they are curious why somuch money was raised this year by Cow Hill as opposed to the claims of little or no money being raised by Karaus in past years.

     It was Karaus’ refusal and/or inability to document and account for what he did with the money raised in the past from the festival - especially the cash generated - that led them to switch to Cow Hill.

Preliminary Reports Reveal This Year’s Venetian Festival Generated Approximately $58,500 Gross - About $25,000 Net Funds - For Local Charities

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