"FOLKIES" are rallying together to ensure the viability of one of Frances' favourite events.
The Frances Folk Gathering, coming up to its 14th consecutive year, is perhaps the biggest event on the yearly calendar for the sleepy little town - but funding issues are threatening how it is run in the future.
The gathering is run as a free event and has been held on the last weekend of February since 1999, with people coming from far and wide to enjoy a weekend of "music, fun and laughter".
But the organising committee is now being forced to seek new options for funding after the State Government, through Arts SA, cut its funding to festivals State-wide.
Organising group chairman Michael McGregor said the group was shocked to find out that one of its biggest sources of funding was being taken away.
"It was out of the blue," he admitted. "Apart from Bulmers it was our biggest sponsor."
The government grant was "in the region of $5000" - about a quarter of what the festival needs to run as it is - but Mr McGregor doused concerns the festival was in danger with the withdrawal of that funding.
"The last thing I want to do is give a sense of panic," he said.
He stressed the festival was not in danger of going into recess in the immediate future.
"This year we have a certain amount of reserve," Mr McGregor said. "There will be a Frances Folk Gathering in 2013 and 2014 because we're committed to doing it."
The organising group is also committed to maintaining the gathering as a free event.
"It's a free festival and a festival that you are in, not just at," Mr McGregor said. "We want to keep it as a free gathering."
He did concede funding would be required to keep it that way.
"We do need to find new sources to run it as a free gathering," he remarked.
And the "folkies", sometimes wrongly stereotyped as being aloof and not forward-thinking, are now set on planning ahead.
"We're going to develop a long-term funding arrangement whereby it is sustainable," Mr McGregor said.
"You can't achieve sustainability through a government grant - governments change, things get tight, priorities change."
He said the group was looking to secure regular sponsorship for the event.
"We're hoping to build long-term relationships with people who want to make the gathering a permanent thing," he said, adding that negotiations were continuing with potential sponsors.
Mr McGregor spoke highly of the gathering's structure and organisation.
"We're in good shape," he said. "We've got an active community group down there in Frances - the Friends Of Frances - the organising group meet in Adelaide and we liaise with them."
The Friends Of Frances help with the groundwork - including setting up and catering. The funding from the government went towards the setting up of the event, a big task.
"It's a big set-up and it all costs money," Mr McGregor said.
Border Districts Football and Netball Club helps with a breakfast put on at the football clubrooms and the Frances Recreation Ground used as a camping facility.
The gathering all centres around the pub.
"We get lots of support from Terry Austin (at the pub)," Mr McGregor said.
The chairman recently visited the town to meet with the Friends of Frances, which opened his eyes to just how important the gathering is.
"It just bore home how important the gathering is to the town," he said.
"It's just great - it's a nice thing for the town."
The Naracoorte Lucindale Council also puts in to help out the festival.
"We're very appreciative of that and we'll be having discussions with them about their continued support," Mr McGregor said.
As negotiations continue with sponsors, the organising committee is also running raffles and has planned a benefit concert in Adelaide to raise money for the gathering.
The possibility of a concert in the SE has also been floated.
In the meantime the organising committee is open to any help it can get.
"People are very welcome to contact me personally - I'd be happy to talk to them," Mr McGregor said. Mr McGregor can be contacted on 0419 820 605.