What’s the Future of Local Festivals?

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2:00 PM | Sunday, October 27, 2019

Money and manpower are the two major factors in determining the viability of local festivals. In this special report, CCX News examines how festivals are adapting to changing communities and adjusting to challenges.

Festival Reviews Happen in the Fall

In Brooklyn Park, the city council received a report on what happened in the 2019 Tater Daze at a recent work session. 

The assessment was candid and reflected changes that face many of our festivals across the area.

“Both 2018 and 2019 were successful events, but we also saw some challenges,” said Brooklyn Park Recreation and Parks Supervisor, Kelly Mertes.

Brooklyn Park’s Tater Daze started in 1964 and is one of the area’s longest running festivals. It pays tribute to the area’s potato farming history.

“The Tater Daze volunteer committee used to be a very strong committee. Volunteers had a large part of the planning. In years past, and over the recent year, there’s been a decrease,” said Mertes.
  Now Tater Daze is now organized and run almost entirely by city staff.  “Brooklyn Park staff have increased the amount of time spent on planning the Tater Daze events over the years.”

Volunteers still help out at actual events and help facilitate the ambassador program.

But declining volunteer participation is certainly not unique to Brooklyn Park. 
Crystal Frolics organizers and city officials also mentioned the lack of volunteers at a recent meeting.

“We need people on the committee,” said Crystal Frolics president Lynn Haney.  Civics organizations are traditionally the backbone of multi-day city festivals. But some volunteer  organizers have been carrying the load for years. Haney has served for 12 years as president and has been volunteering for more than two decades.

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Festivals Rely on City Resources for Sustainability

The city of Crystal, like Brooklyn Park, will also take on a larger role with future festivals.

The city of Brooklyn Center has had a growing role in making the Earle Brown Days festival happen.

“We’ve always supported the parade monetarily,” explains long time Brooklyn Center Lion, Tom Shinnick. “Then after the 1986 parade, the people didn’t want to run it anymore, so the Lions took it over in 1987.”

Brooklyn Center’s Earle Brown Days festival responsibilities are divided between the Brooklyn Center Lions, who organize the parade, and the city, which organizes everything else.

 But volunteering is still very much needed elsewhere.

Perhaps one of the best examples of volunteer groups running a local festival is the Maple Grove Community Organization, which puts on Maple Grove Days.

“All of their committee members are residents of Maple Grove, or have a tie to Maple Grove,” said Tanya Huntley who is the Special Events Coordinator for the City of Maple Grove. “They have monthly meetings and they’re always encouraging more people, you know new residents, to come in and be part of it.”

Huntley is also the city liaison to the Maple Grove Community Organization.

 The city of Maple Grove provides services needed to make the events happen, such as the police needed for the parade.

But, without the Maple Grove Community Organization doing the heavy lifting, it’s fair to wonder what would happen to that festival.

“It is a partnership. They provide a great service for the residents of Maple Grove and surrounding communities,” said Huntley.

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Festival Security Also Impacts Cost

Crystal’s Becker Park will be finished by next summer, which means a new opportunity for the festival. Lynn Haney, president of Crystal Frolics, says that might be without the carnival.

“It was very hard, watching the carnival pack up that night. It’s like, I hope to see see you again. Don’t know if I will,”

 said Haney. “One of our biggest expenses as far as for the police, was the carnival.”

Police presence is a growing cost for carnivals. 

New Hope’s Duk Duk Daze carnival was marred by fights the past two years.

Brooklyn Park cut its Tater Daze carnival a few years ago for safety reasons.

The carnival at Robbinsdale’s Whiz Bang Days fell to the budget axe seven years ago.

“It was a financial decision. You know it was expensive,” said Whiz Bang Days committee member Candy Norton at the time.

Other Festival Costs

Fireworks are also a big expense.

“We’ve had the Northwest Jaycees able to fund the entire fireworks for us. And that’s usually something we’re trying to get to toward the end to pay that bill,” said Whiz Bang Days committee president, Amanda Roberg, about this years fireworks display.

That bill can cost around ten thousand dollars and up per fireworks show, which can be a big price tag for a small town festival.

Then, you cannot forget the parades. Brooklyn Park cut bands out of the parades a few years ago and city council members got complaints.

“People often complain to me that we don’t have any marching bands in our parade. Well, we used to pay marching bands to come and we would cap it off at ten. They would fight to get into our parade. Now we don’t even have our local bands in our parade because they go where the money is. And we don’t have the money,” said Brooklyn Park council member Lisa Jacobson at a recent council work session.

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So what are the festival futures?

One answer may lie with time.

 Many cities are going away from multi-day events due to the lack of volunteers, lack of sponsors, and budgets. Local festivals may go from several days to just one. Plymouth and Golden Valley already have adopted this model, where they host a few one-day events over the course of a year. Changing demographics will play a significant role too.

“I think it’s going to change with our community. I think we’re probably going to see lots of little events and kinda of spread it out. And that gives us some options to do many different things and try some stuff out,” said Brooklyn Park mayor Jeff Lunde. Brooklyn Park may invest more time and money into supporting different cultural events.

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