Free music, sports events popular amid recession

Fri Jul 24, 2009 11:59am EDT
 
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - People are flocking to free outdoor cultural events from opera to rappers to Shakespeare, entertaining themselves on a budget amid the worst recession in some 70 years.

As more people opt to spend vacations at home, some U.S. parks groups are seeing audiences double, while donations and sponsorships of free summer programs are dropping.

In New York, the City Parks Foundation puts on nearly 1,200 free events, mostly in summer, and has seen crowds grow by at least 30 percent compared to last year.

"The recession is definitely playing a role," the foundation's executive director, David Rivel, told Reuters. "Fundraising is down about 20 percent, Attendance is up about 20 to 30 percent at least, and we're doing the best we can.

"Almost all of our sponsors from last year are back, but virtually none of them are giving more money and many are giving less money than they did last year."

Rivel said the foundation had dipped into its endowment to avoid cutting programs.

A huge demand has risen for free sports programs, as many parents cannot afford sending children to camp, he added.

Waiting in the rain at New York's East River Park for hip hop artist Slick Rick to appear, Audrea Alicea, 40, said free events were good for "keeping the kids out of trouble."   Continued...

 
<p>Pedestrians walk through Central Park on a warm spring day in New York April 2, 2009. People are flocking to free outdoor cultural events, in places like Central Park, from opera to rappers to Shakespeare, entertaining themselves on a budget amid the worst recession in some 70 years. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>