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The Original Festival brought multi-genre alternative acts aimed at a younger audience to Butte. Organizer Matt Boyle is canceling the festival this year but wants to revive it next year.

Original Festival, provided

While Evel Knievel Days’ future remains uncertain, fans of Butte’s summer festival season got another dose of bad news Thursday — the Original Festival has been canceled this year.

Founder Matt Boyle made the announcement on Facebook Thursday evening. In a heartfelt post, he wrote about the sacrifice of putting the festival together for the last five years and how he needed to take a break.

He says he will bring it back next year.

Boyle has his hands in many projects. Besides the Original Festival, which was focused on alternative, mixed-genre music aimed for a younger audience, Boyle also volunteers for the Mother Lode Theater, low-power alternative radio station KBMF 102.5, and the Butte America Foundation. He also runs the Montana Booking Agency, which books shows for musical acts.

The problem, Boyle said by phone Friday, is that he’s not in a position financially to put the festival together for 2018. Despite getting sponsorships and grants and, until last year, charging a fee, Boyle routinely lost money.

He called it a “money pit” but also “a labor of love.”

“I’ve decided to take a year off, reorganize things,” he said. “It’s for the best. There’s a chance that when we do come back, it might be under a new name, a new brand. I’ve got to take a year off and refocus things.”

The festival began in 2013 on a $15,000 budget. That budget grew under Boyle’s leadership to $91,000 by last year.

Boyle spoke of his other responsibilities as a factor in his decision. He is involved in an upcoming fundraiser for the Mother Lode to put in a new sprinkler system. The historically built theater needs upgrades to meet modern safety codes.

KBMF recently got a grant from the Superfund Advisory Redevelopment Trust Authority Board — more commonly known as SARTA — to do some improvements on the building on Granite Street and improve the radio’s equipment. Boyle expects to be busy with these projects. He is also the parade director and has to give attention to putting together Butte’s infamous St. Patrick’s Day parade that is upcoming in a few weeks and Butte’s Independence Day parade in July.

“There’s so many big projects this year. I want to make sure those go well. I would want to do the Original Festival at the same caliber as the year before. I’d never want to give less of a show,” Boyle said.

Historic Clark Chateau curator Christine Martin will miss the Original Festival. She attended in the past and sees it as a great draw for the community.

“I’m really happy he put it on as many years as he did,” she said. “It brought a lot of big names to Butte. I’m sad he’s not going to go do it. But hopefully after a break he’ll put it back on and take a different business approach and be more solvent.”

Martin said she has seen an uptick in the number of people Uptown during the weekend of the festival, which has generally been in September.

EK Days’ organizer Stephen Coe told The Montana Standard last month that the festival named after Butte’s famous daredevil is facing an uncertain future. That festival is struggling to raise enough money from businesses. EK Days is a free event.

The Original Festival came with a fee when it first began five years ago. But last year, Boyle announced that it, too, would be free.

But, though Boyle does worry that taking a year off could cause the festival to lose momentum, it’s the best decision for now.

“It was not an easy decision; it was financially and emotionally a personal investment, and a lot of pride goes along with that,” he said. “That was the biggest thing to get over to make that decision, but you need to know when to call it quits.”


Nat'l Resources / General Reporter

Environmental and natural resources reporter for the Montana Standard.

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