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Loan likely for Dew Days group

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The future of Farmington's Dew Days celebration has been a question for a few weeks now. The answer, it turns out, may be all about getting back to the basics. And how to get there.

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More specifically, organizers are trying to figure out how to get back on solid ground financially, since the group behind the city celebration, the Castle Rock-Empire-Eureka-Farmington Areawide Enhancement Group, is stuck with a $23,271 debt from last year's celebration.

But a plan is in the works that includes a loan from the city of Farmington.

Farmington City Council members met with CEEF representatives Monday to discuss the organization's future. Though the city wishes to remain on the outside of the celebration, a majority of the council is willing to float CEEF a loan.

"We're trying to figure out how to make it a community success and not a city success," said city administrator Peter Herlofsky.

Restructuring

CEEF treasurer Jeff Thelen presented council members with a detailed list of outstanding debt from the 2009 celebration. Most of the $23,271 debt from this year's Dew Days is owed to Farmington businesses.

Over the past decade, Thelen said, the city celebration -- be it Mountain Dew Days, Rambling River Days or Dew Days -- has only come out with a positive balance once. Though this year's celebration was a financial failure, there were some activities that were very successful, he said. The Taste of Farmington had a very good turnout. Some of the other free activities also had good participation.

Though Thelen acknowledges having the event at the fairgrounds may have contributed to the problem, he said no one was to blame for the event's shortcomings.

"You can't point fingers at anyone," Thelen said. "Enough people did not show up and revenue wasn't there."

CEEF would like the loan to cover last year's expenses, and another $5,000 as seed money for a celebration in 2010. But the consensus is that the event's future success depends on participation from organizations and businesses outside of CEEF or the city. Thelen suggested another organization, a branch of CEEF, be created to run the event.

"There should be a larger group beyond CEEF to run (Dew Days)," Thelen said. "Is CEEF the body that should run festivals like Dew Days? I'm not so sure.

"We need not just 10 people sitting around a table, we need 100," he said.

Helofsky has spoken with the Farmington Downtown Business Association about the celebration's future. DBA members have indicated a willingness to participate if more events are held downtown.

Possible future plans

CEEF members know something has to change in order to make any future event a success, both financially and for the community. With that in mind, they have started talking about some changes.

They are leaning toward reducing the celebration's run from 10 days to four -- Thursday through Sunday -- maybe beginning with the Miss Farmington coronation on the first night. Another idea is to plan music and activities downtown on Saturday night, and to move the parade to late Saturday afternoon. They hope that would encourage residents to come down to enjoy the parade, then stay around to participate in the other events.

A compromise

On a 4-1 vote at the regular meeting later Monday, council members directed Herlofsky and city attorney Joel Jamnik to draw up a draft contract that spells out the amount the city would be willing to lend, the life of the loan and the finance charge. That draft will be presented to council at the Oct. 19 meeting. The intention, then, would be to forward the contract to the economic development authority, because the EDA would be the body to issue the loan.

Council member Julie May, who has been opposed to giving CEEF financial assistance, cast the dissenting vote. May pointed out that whether the loan comes from the city council or the EDA, the money still comes from the same source -- Farmington taxpayers.

"I was elected to represent that taxpayers but not to loan out money," she said.

She questioned why CEEF was not trying to do more fundraising between events, pointing out that just about any other organization that wants to do things for the community holds fundraisers.

Council member Christy Jo Fogarty also encouraged CEEF members to look for ways to do fundraising.

"I think fundraising is a fair thing for us to ask," Fogarty said.

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