LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Just over a week ago, organizers of Louisville's Portland Festival announced that the annual tradition was canceled this year due to lack of funding. But now the event is back on, thanks to a last-minute sponsorship.

The festival is getting a second chance after Planet Fitness stepped up with a $14,000 donation, according to Portland Festival Treasurer Mike Neagle.

Neagle said it's a welcomed last-minute development.

"I think having to cancel it made people realize how much they love the festival," he said. 

The Portland Festival has been going on for decades in the community, featuring food and craft vendors, music, carnival rides, a car show, parade, and more. Some describe it as a "homecoming" of sorts, bringing former and new residents together in Portland.

Traditionally, the event is held in early June. Getting this donation in last minute, this year the festival is being pushed back to Oct. 6 and 7.

"We've gotten various feedback. Most people, I think, are just happy that it's happening," said Neagle.

He said aside from the large donation and sponsorship from Planet Fitness, others have worked on getting donations totaling $11,000, which will now help kick-start the fundraising for a successful festival in 2024.

Neagle said a festival of this size costs at least $30,000. The Portland Festival website made a call for help in early May, asking for more donations and breaking down the pricing including everything from security to t-shirts.

Even some who don't live in the neighborhood look forward to the event.

"It's a chance for people who don't live in the area to come and experience the area, to meet the people here," said Monique Lathon, who lives near Churchill Downs.

Lathon has been to the Portland Festival before with her daughter. 

"I like to eat, she likes the rides and the games. (It's) a chance to have a good time in a safe environment for the most part," she said.

Lathon said as long as the weather is nice, she plans on coming to the event this October.

"It's a good time. Lots of community out. It's a good sense of community. Lots of vendors. A chance to support local people," she said.

No one from Planet Fitness was available for an interview Friday about the donation, but the company provided the following statement in a press release late Thursday:

"Louisville and particularly the Portland neighborhood has been so supportive of our Planet Fitness clubs dating back to our first club opening in 2012," said GlowBrands CEO Rick Kueber who leads the Louisville-area Planet Fitness franchisee group. "Mike Neagle and his family have been good friends and partners of ours for many years. We're appreciative of the opportunity to return that support to the neighborhood."

Some argue the financial struggles with the Portland Festival show just a snapshot of a wider issue, with many community festivals cancelled due to funding issues, particularly in west Louisville.

"The neighboring communities know about what's going on in Portland, and we feel their pain, and we're here to support them," said Ray Barker, often known as Sir Friendly C. 

Barker said he lives in the Chickasaw neighborhood and for years held a "Fun Festival" in the Russell neighborhood. Barker said other festivals throughout the years have been cancelled, largely due to the rising cost of security. He believes the city should do more to cover that part of the bill -- which can be thousands of dollars.

"They should do what we already pay them for, which is be a part of the community that they're already in and make sure the citizens in this community are safe and that we can have events in our own community," said Barker.

He said events like the Portland Festival are a point of pride.

"Our youth gets to see us at our best," Barker said. "They get to see us, they get to meet the good people of the community, bump elbows with them, know who they are."

According to the city, the following is a list of west Louisville community events that have taken place in 2023 where LMPD officers were present. The mayor's office said metro government also provided additional resources at many of these events. A spokesperson said some events paid for the security themselves and for some, the officers were on patrol in the area:

  • Thursday, January 5 – InKredible's Burgers & Shakes Ribbon Cutting – 1800 W Hill St
  • Saturday, January 14 – MLK Breakfast – Louisville Central Community Center
  • Monday, January 16 – MLK Tree Planting – Shawnee Park
  • Tuesday, February 21 – Simmons College Transform Louisville Breakfast – St. Stephen Church
  • Sunday, February 26 – PAL Basketball Game – 2500 Portland Ave
  • Sunday, March 5 – Honoring Bishop Dr. Shannon Cook – 2208 W Jefferson St
  • Friday, March 10 – ElderServe Grand Re-Opening – 631 S 28th St
  • Saturday, March 11 – Mr. Moore March Madness – Southwick Community Center
  • Thursday, March 16 – LCCC Annual Meeting & Awards – LCCC
  • Saturday, March 18 – Alberta Jones Park Groundbreaking – 2311 Maple St
  • Wednesday, March 22 – Metro Government Career Fair – LCCC
  • Saturday, March 25 – Boys & Girls Club Sneaker Ball – Norton Sports & Learning Center
  • Saturday, April 1 – Holi Festival – 1110 Wilson Ave
  • Thursday, April 6 – GAD Street Clean-Up – 1718 W Muhammad Ali Blvd
  • Saturday, April 15 – KDF Block Party – Norton Sports & Learning Center
  • Wednesday, April 26 – Shepard Fairey Mural Dedication – Chestnut Street YMCA
  • Monday, May 1 – Yearlings Club Derby Kick Off – Yearlings Club
  • Friday, May 19 – Russell Place of Promise Convening – LCCC

This year's Portland Festival is now scheduled for Oct. 6-7. It will take place off Northwestern Parkway.

Next year, Neagle said he expects the festival will go back to being held in the summer. 

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