ALBURY-Wodonga's new arts and cultural celebration fell $1 million short in forecast spending and attracted fewer visitors than predicted.
The Upstream Festival held in March across the Twin Cities had been expected to generate $2.5 million but instead netted $1.52 million.
An attendance aim of 20,000, with 20 per cent from beyond Albury-Wodonga, was also not met.
The overall audience was estimated at 16,700 with 17.7 per cent of those visitors to the Twin Cities.
The festival numbers have been outlined in reports presented to Albury and Wodonga councils this month.
Albury Council events team leader Ros Walls declared that while key goals had not been achieved, Upstream was a "success" and the results were "positive".
"The investment of up to $400K in cash and resources by both councils has not provided a significant economic return in the first year; however, it is important to also consider the social and cultural outcomes of the festival," Ms Walls stated.
"Upstream requires time to grow and develop a brand presence in the state and national market to develop its reputation."
Wodonga Council's acting manager cultural services and tourism Kim Strang also noted the need to allow the festival to build, but cited other factors for the lower than expected turnout.
They included the rise of COVID-19 through March, a 110mm downpour two days before the festival and community event exhaustion tied to the summer bushfires and related fundraisers.
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"The bushfire effect also negated visitation to our region as the metro media reported the North East region being impacted by the fires," Ms Strang noted.
Overall feedback from festival patrons was upbeat with a survey of 445 finding 92.6 per cent rated it favourably, with 60.2 per cent labelling it "excellent" and 32.4 per cent "above average".
Just over 80 per cent of those responding lived in Albury-Wodonga with 78.8 per cent of feedback coming from women.
Past deputy mayor David Thurley told fellow Albury councillors the event was a success, but flagged having an artistic director.
"It's not suggesting a full-time employee needs to be (hired) it's just when we're setting up the program, setting up the event, rather than just an events team having food here and an event there, that we have an artistic director who says or who makes suggestions about how the whole artistic input can be co-ordinated and driven," Cr Thurley said.
Ms Walls stated "support from the local creative community in general was considered below expectations" with more contact needed.