With the summer-style weather wrapping itself around the area, my thoughts have skipped over spring and are gearing up for the summer season.
Graduation ceremonies are on my calendar as are the summer festivals.
But one summer celebration is in danger and only volunteers can save it. St. Francis Pioneer Days is on the chopping block for 2013.
For some, it might seem too soon to make a decision for something that is over a year away, but the St. Francis City Council has been contemplating the future of the city celebration since last fall as it has been struggling with reducing its budget.
Yes, once again the depressed economy rears its head.
Unlike Andover Fun Fest and East Bethel Booster Days, Pioneer Days is funded by the city. Last year, approximately $13,000 was spent on the event.
It does get some help from sponsoring businesses and groups, but that help has decreased as the economy soured.
While the council has been weighing the best use of taxpayer dollars, some residents think there are other things that can be got rid of to keep Pioneer Days.
One reader, Mitch J., thinks this is typical of the city. “There is nothing here for kids of any age to do (city’s responsibility). And now the council wants to eliminate one of its only celebrations kids look forward to here. And not just kids, there are adults, as myself, that love seeing the town take some pride and have fun with each other,” he said on the ABC Newspapers website in comments regarding a Pioneer Days story.
He also questioned the need for the fancy paint job on the squad cars and speed the police drive and how many salaries the city pays. “And these ideas are just the beginning, I mean how do our taxes keep going up yet we keep losing our community. And officials say be proud to be from St. Francis, and then threaten to take away (the) community parade, something that is a supposed to be a prideful moment and celebration.” Mitch J. wrote.
I have no idea who Mitch J. is as he did not give us his last name nor have I seen him at city meetings (that I know of), but he has missed a couple of things. Those city salaries are used partly to plan and run Pioneer Days.
Some city staff members spend the year planning the event and the majority of them are on the streets during the event cleaning up and running the show.
The real question should be and should have been – why is the city using taxpayer money to pay for Pioneer Days? Why have community members not stepped up before now to take it over and save taxpayer money?
St. Francis residents have demanded the city cut expenses (which it has). Now, they are demanding to city keep Pioneer Days. You can’t have it both ways.
When the economy demands cutbacks, everything is on the table. As households, we vacation differently. Gone for some are summer trips and even outings to local attractions.
Why would it not be that same for cities? Recently, the city held two public meetings to talk about the future of Pioneer Days. Only a handful of people came. And no one wanted to see the event disappear.
Sounds great, but the event’s future will depend on the getting volunteers to replace city workers to clean and organize the event.
It is possible to run a community celebration with volunteers. Andover does it. Andover Fun Fest, which has been around for 17 years, is run by residents and a brigade of volunteers. The city has minimal involvement, including financial.
During the event, volunteers work two-hour shifts.
Is giving up two hours worth keeping Pioneer Days? Don’t want to work on the weekend of Pioneer Days, then how about helping with planning? What is it worth to you to keep your community celebration?