SlimFest 2009 drew more than 3,000 people, its biggest crowd ever, and raised more than $75,000 with the profit benefiting two area charities. After expenses, about $40,000 was to be split between two charities, organizer Steve “Slim” Stilts said.
In four years, SlimFest has raised more than $300,000 and after expenses, about $150,000 has been split between the Fraternal Order of Police Shop with a Cop program and the New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center.
Stilts started the event four years ago as a way to celebrate his 50th birthday and also support the community. Each year, either a car or a cash prize is given away through a reverse raffle. Tickets sold for $100 each and proceeds went to the charities.
Stilts said he was worried a few months ago about the economy’s effect on the concert. “But when I saw the sponsors, I felt good, and ticket sales were better than last year,” he said.
Stilts said he and other planners lowered their budget for this year’s event because of the tough economy. While $80,000 was raised last year, they set their sights on raising $70,000 this year and ended up exceeding that goal.
“We ended up raising more money than we had projected,” he said. “Thanks to the generosity of the community and our sponsors, SlimFest raised over $75,000 and had the largest crowd ever.”
Stilts thanked the volunteers who helped facilitate the concert. “They could be doing something else but they are here, pitching in. That’s what makes me want to come back and do it again,” he said.
The $10,000 raffle prize was a reverse raffle in which each name drawn meant that person was eliminated. When it came down to only four people remaining, they all agreed to split the prize money rather than continue eliminating individuals.
“We had four ticket holders split the $10,000,” said Stilts. “Chris Gaspard, Chad Berrong, Haley and Conner Pressley and Ted and Kim Greene won $2,500.”
Chad Berrong, son of Sheriff James Berrong, said, it was luck of the draw that he won. Gaspard was overjoyed by the win. “I have never won anything in my whole life,” he said.
David Hall, owner of Hall’s Salvage and a sponsor of the concert, was excited about the turnout. “We were concerned about how the economy would affect us but look at the crowd! It’s bigger and better than it has ever been,” he said. “Whenever Hall’s Salvage gets the opportunity to get involved in something like this, we don’t turn it loose.”
Brett Hall, president of Fraternal Order of Police Bud Allison Memorial Lodge, said he was impressed with the increase in the number of sponsors who help underwrite the event. “It shows that even when people and businesses are hurting and the economy isn’t good, they want to make sure children don’t do without,” he said.
Trudy Hughes, executive director of the New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center, said the crowd has grown and stayed at the event longer each year the event has been held. “I think we’re double at this hour of evening from this time last year,” she said.
State Sen. Doug Overbey said the large turnout showed that people liked helping the F.O.P. Shop with a Cop and the Children’s Advocacy Center. “Throw in good entertainment, and people are going to support it,” he said.
Jim Scully said he came to the event because it benefits two charities that help children throughout Blount County. “It’s a good cause, and it’s a fun time,” he said.
Deborah Bowman of Maryville said she enjoys SlimFest each year. “I just like coming for the fun,” she said. “Most of the time you run into people you haven’t seen in a while.”
Sen. MSgt. Timothy Kumes led the academy members volunteering at the event. There were about 36 members who volunteered. “When our students come here for school for five and a half weeks, part of our military service is giving back to the community,” he said. “We try to get them involved.”
Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp said he and his wife Phyllis were at the concert to support the F.O.P. and the Children’s Advocacy Center. “These two organizations improve the quality of life in the community and make life better for those in a less fortunate situation,” he said.
Greg McClain, city manager of Maryville, joked that he was “in the wrong jurisdiction” since the concert was in the City of Alcoa. “But any opportunity to come together and fellowship for a good cause is a good thing,” he said.