Ichthus has been canceled.
The nation’s oldest Christian-music festival that began in 1970 will not be returning in 2013.
According an announcement Saturday on the Ichthus Ministries website, the board of directors decided to close the doors of the organization due to financial struggles.
“It’s a sad day,” Wilmore Mayor Harold Rainwater said. “It’s meant a lot to a lot of people, to the community. I wish they would have come to (the city) for help; I would have done anything in my power to help.”
Rainwater said the festival’s departure will have an immeasurable effect on local businesses but the city will manage.
“Places like the Y gas station and restaurants will definitely feel it,” Rainwater said. “Nicholasville will feel it too — hotels, shops, everyone.”
Jessamine County Chamber of Commerce executive director Amy Cloud was also saddened by the news and agreed the loss of thousands of visitors each summer would be felt in the county.
“I grew up with Ichthus; I went as a kid,” Cloud said. “And it’s sad for the county and a great loss, but I’m more sad that my kids won’t have the chance to grow up with it like I did.”
Both Cloud and Rainwater said the benefits of the Ichthus concert reached across borders, oceans and generations of people who were touched by the ministry and the Christian music.
Mark E. Nichols, attorney for Ichthus Ministries, mirrored Rainwater’s remarks and stated that is was a “sad day” for the community and everyone involved, especially the board.
“The festival has an incredible legacy because of how it influenced, impacted and changed the lives of tens of thousands of youth and adults over the years,” Nichols said.
The organization stated that adverse weather, attendance decline, market changes and mounting debt since 2006 have taken their toll on the festival.
Ichthus claims it made significant cuts to staff and expenses while seeking more and more donors but it was not enough and the board of directors had “no other choice.”
The board even sought a buyer for the 111-acre farm in Wilmore but could not find a credible prospect.
The fate of the property has not been discussed by the Wilmore City Council, Rainwater said.
More than 1,000 tickets were sold and dozens of bands lined up in preparation for the 2013 festival. The board of directors has stated it has made arrangements to ensure that all tickets will be refunded.
The board is selling all property including farm equipment and office furnishings in the next month and a half. Bids for the rights to the name and the website are being accepted. Prospective bids must be sent to Nichols at email@example.com.
The directors stated that all proceeds will go toward paying off the debt of Ichthus Ministries, Inc.
Neither Rainwater nor Cloud was surprised that Ichthus decided to close its doors, but both said they have hope that Ichthus may be resurrected again one day.