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Top stories of the 2010s: 'Newbo evolve' leaves behind unpaid vendors, $2.3 million in debt

2018 Cedar Rapids festival led to firings, tourism changes

A crowd fills up around the reserved seating area Aug. 3, 2018, before the Kelly Clarkson concert during #x201c;newbo ev
A crowd fills up around the reserved seating area Aug. 3, 2018, before the Kelly Clarkson concert during “newbo evolve.” The festival lost $2.3 million and led to the dissolution of GO Cedar Rapids, the tourism group that planned the three-day festival. (The Gazette)
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The eve of a new decade presents a perfect time to reflect on the past 10 years, to look at the changes in our lives and in our state and nation. For Iowa, The Gazette chose 10 storylines of the decade that have changed or will change the state’s trajectory. This is one of those stories. See the full list and read them here.

An August 2018 “signature” music and culture celebration put Cedar Rapids on the nation’s entertainment map, but not in the way organizers had hoped.

The “newbo evolve” festival lost $2.3 million. Vendors went unpaid. Checks bounced. People were fired.

GO Cedar Rapids — the city’s convention and visitors bureau — planned the three-day summer festival.

Kelly Clarkson and Maroon 5 were signed to headline concerts on festival grounds in the NewBo District.

The days were filled with workshops featuring local and celebrity speakers — fashion designers Carson Kressley and Christian Siriano, filmmaker John Waters and U.S. Olympian Adam Rippon, among others.

And you could attend everything with a $375 festival pass — a price tag only 602 people felt they could afford.

The plan had been to sell 4,000 of them.

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Some 8,340 general admission concert tickets were sold, not the 22,000 planned. Another 3,804 complimentary tickets were handed out.

GO Cedar Rapids could not repay a $1.5 million loan from Bankers Trust nor $800,000 promised to vendors.

The GO Cedar Rapids board fired President Aaron McCreight and Community Events Director Scott Tallman, saying it had been misled about ticket sales, sponsorships and spending.

Bankers Trust parted ways with its Cedar Rapids president.

Cedar Rapids City Council members refused to continue hotel-motel tax payments to GO Cedar Rapids, saying taxpayers shouldn’t bail out the organization or vendors, despite some public calls to do so.

GO Cedar Rapids folded owing money.

City officials directed $750,000 in hotel-motel taxes to the newly created Cedar Rapids Tourism Office, which works with VenuWorks, a vendor that already booked events for other city-owned performance spaces, until a long-term solution could be found.

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