It was a record run for the largest Orlando Fringe Festival in history, but don't expect it to get any bigger next year.
"We don't want to grow too fast," said festival producer Michael Marinaccio.
More tickets were sold, more families attended the free Kids Fringe and more patrons visited nearby businesses during the 2013 festival that ended last week.
But the money earned by performers fell slightly from 2012, according to Marinaccio. The early arrival of summer storms and competition from events in downtown Orlando — including two concerts by former Beatle Paul McCartney on the festival's first weekend — posed challenges and dampened theatergoers' enthusiasm.
"We had a very rough first weekend, but a great second weekend," Marinaccio said. "We bounced back."
The Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival expanded from 80 shows last year to more than 100 ticketed performances in 2013. Centered in Orlando's Loch Haven Park, the 22-year-old festival also presented its short plays, dance and other artistic programs in two theaters in the nearby Ivanhoe neighborhood for the first time.
Merchants said adding The Venue on Virginia Drive and Theatre Downtown on Orange Avenue brought them customers.
"We had a ton of business," said Chip Cricher, owner of The Hideaway bar across the street from The Venue. "In years past, there wasn't much going on. This year, you could definitely see the difference."
Brandy Tezak said Fringe patrons became new customers at Retromended Vintage, an Orange Avenue clothing and home-goods store she has owned less than a year. "Especially during the weekends, when the Fringe was going on all day, people would wander in," she said. "It's great that they expanded. I appreciate any reason for people to be walking around."
And Scottie Campbell, executive director of the Ivanhoe Village Main Street association, said he "felt like people were discovering the neighborhood. The expansion worked."
In his second year producing the longest-running Fringe in the United States, Marinaccio expanded it in part because each year scores of performers are turned away. Even with the 100-plus shows this year, 50 shows didn't get a spot in the two-week festival.
The artists' earnings, which includes performers and visual artists, dropped slightly to about $247,500 from last year's record of about $250,000.
"We pride ourselves on being accessible, and several artists honored the accessibility spirit by setting their ticket prices lower this year to welcome more audiences," Marinaccio said. Fringe artists can charge up to $11 per ticket; this year, about 40 shows charged less than the maximum price, reducing overall earnings.
Although record-setting, ticket sales showed only a moderate jump: About 31,000 were distributed, compared with about 29,000 in 2012. Kids' Fringe attendance was 10,800, up about 800 from 2012. And a grant from the Universal Orlando Foundation allowed Kids Fringe performers for the first time to visit local schoolchildren to present arts programs and promote the festival.
California-based Deb Loucks, who produces her husband's one-man show "Cemetery Golf," was assigned to The Venue, about a 20-minute walk from Loch Haven Park. About a dozen theatergoers attended each of their seven performances, on average.
"We were hoping for more, of course," Loucks said. "But as an out-of-towner, we know it's hard."
Next year Marinaccio hopes to keep out-of-town acts at Loch Haven Park.
"The new venues were really successful for locals, who draw their own audiences," he said. "But really not for out-of-towners."
Another project for the 2014 festival: Finding a new home for the Visual Fringe art exhibition, staged in an empty warehouse on Alden Road this year. That 13,000 square-foot warehouse won't be available next year.
"What I've learned is to be flexible and be prepared," Marinaccio said. "Anything could happen."
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