CEDAR RAPIDS — One of Cedar Rapids’ most successful new events — the Haunted Halloween Ball — was nearly a casualty of one of the least successful events, “newbo evolve.”
The Haunted Halloween Ball is an annual costume party featuring live music by the Pork Tornadoes, a popular Iowa cover band. The event has raised more than $35,000 for charity in its four years, including $10,000 for the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy raised from this year’s event Oct. 27 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel and Convention Center.
In the first year, organizers had hoped to sell 300 tickets but sold three times as many, prompting the GO Cedar Rapids tourism bureau to step forward and help the event grow.
For the past three years, GO Cedar Rapids handled ticket sales through a ticketing platform called Bandwango.
Under the process, customers purchased tickets, Bandwango collected the money, and then Bandwango deposited it into a GO Cedar Rapids account for holding until after the event. At that point, the Halloween Ball received the money, the ball committee said in a statement. This year, tickets went on sale in mid-July and were sold out by Sept. 12. The event drew 1,800 ticket holders. Tickets sold for $25 each.
When GO Cedar Rapids folded Oct. 15 after losing $2.3 million on newbo evolve, the organization still owed $800,000 to newbo evolve vendors and an additional $38,750 for the Halloween Ball — which at that point hadn’t yet occurred.
It’s not clear what happened to the $38,750 earmarked for the ball. The city referred questions to the GO Cedar Rapids, which is a separate legal entity. John Myers, the chairman of the GO Cedar Rapids board, did not respond to questions.
Unlike for the vendors who apparently won’t be paid for participating in newbo evolve, the city stepped up through its new Cedar Rapids Tourism Office created after the GO Cedar Rapids closure to cover the $38,750 owed for Halloween Ball ticket sales, sales taxes and a fee for the ticket provider.
“We were assured that this money would still be given to us since it was generated by ticket sales to our own event that had nothing to do with ‘newbo evolve’ or GoCR,” according to the Halloween Ball committee.
The Halloween Ball occurred as planned, and it was able to fulfill payments to its vendors and to charity.
“Our event has always been an independent entity, run by three individuals who are not affiliated with GoCR. We continue to look forward to this event and supporting our local community,” according to the committee, which consists of event founders Mike and Molly Schulte and Kelli Sutterman.
In documents created as city officials were reviewing GO Cedar Rapids finances in September and October before it folded, the Halloween Ball was the only vendor specifically named and the only one slated to receive money regardless of three scenarios being contemplated for the fate of the tourism bureau.
“This event is not related to newbo evolve,” Casey Drew, Cedar Rapids finance director who oversees the new tourism program, said in a statement released by the city’s communications department.
Drew declined to speak directly to The Gazette but made his comments in writing “to ensure city responses are clearly communicated and understood.”
“The Pork Tornadoes event is no different from honoring the financial commitment made by GO CR to the several sporting tournaments being held across the city this month,” the statement said. “In this particular case, GO Cedar Rapids engaged in selling advance tickets to the public for this concert. This event was a future commitment that took place after the CR Tourism Office took over operations.”
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