St. Francis steps closer to ending Pioneer Days

by Tammy Sakry
Staff Writer

Without more volunteers and more sponsors, St. Francis’s Pioneer Days will likely be a thing of the past.

At its March 5 meeting, the St. Francis City Council discussed the future of the June city celebration for 2013.

“I don’t want to see it go away, but I don’t think we (the city) can keep supporting it,” said Councilmember Steve Kane.

The council needs to make a decision on what will happen to Pioneer Days if other groups or sponsors don’t come forward, he said.

After a lengthy discussion, the council’s consensus was to end the 48-year-old celebration if the March 15 Pioneer Days meetings with the businesses and public do not yield more volunteers.

Councilmember Chris McClish said he wants to see if some other group will take over the event, scheduled this year for June 8-10, from the city or have the city eliminate the parade.

The parade is one of the largest expenses and very time consuming to organize, said City Clerk Barb Held, event organizer.

The city pays for some of the specialty bands as well as the travel expenses for high school marching bands, she said.

Last year, the city spent around $4,200 for the parade, which included paying for trophies, high school band travel expenses and paying for bands, like the Cracker Jack band.

To help the expenses, the city added a $25 fee for parade entries.

The biggest expense the city incurs for the three-day celebration is the overtime it has to pay the hourly public works staff, which was $8,400 last year, Kane said.

There is a lot of staff time spent clean up during the event, said Councilmember Jeff Sandoval.

Pioneer Days also competes with Champlin’s Father Hennepin Days, he said.

Perhaps the city can hold an activity day or parade, but not on the same day, Sandoval said.

“(Pioneer Days) is not a service we are providing. It is promoting the city, but we losing, not gaining, by it,” he said.

“We have come to a point in time where we are not getting any further with this. It’s taking us backwards.”

It is time for the city to get away from paying for the celebration and if no one volunteers to take it over, the city cannot continue to throw good money after bad, Sandoval said.

It is also hard to say what the cost will really be for Pioneer Days because the costs are increasing and there may be expenses the city will incur that it is unaware of now, he said.

He would like to see something for Saturday. But the city can’t keep all three days and be cost effective, it hasn’t been able to do that for the last few years, Sandoval said.

If the city reduces the event to a single day, it is unlikely the city will be able to attract carnival providers, merchandise vendors or some of the food vendors, Held said.

“We are not the only city looking at this,” said Councilmember Tim Brown, referring to Stillwater’s recent decision regarding its Lumber Jack Days.

“Someone will have to take it over or it will have to go away,” he said.

While he would hate to see the event go away, Mayor Jerry Tveit said he concurred.

Public help sought

The city and the Pioneer Days committee will be holding two special public meetings March 15 for area business members, residents and organizations about the future of the event.

With the possibility that the city could eliminate Pioneer Days from its 2013 budget, the March 15 meetings, being held at 2 and 6 p.m., will allow city staff to talk to area businesses, organizations and residents to see if there are groups willing to step up and help with the cost or take over as well as get input from them about the event.

The March 15 meetings will be in the city hall’s community room, 23340 Cree St.

Tammy Sakry is at [email protected]