|Posted by Anne Siren on December 14, 2012 at 2:25 PM|
Deerfield Beach – Faced with dwindling financial resources and aging volunteers, the Founders’ Days’ committee is packing it in. This year, the city and a private event planner will stage the 66th annual festival which takes place in mid-February.
Said former event chair David MacKay, “When we looked at the cost, over $100,000, it was scary. We have only $25,000 in the bank. Do we want to be operating in the red? We always had a slush fund to cover our expenses. ”
MacKay said that out of 12 Founders’ Days’ board members, six are over the age of 70 and that although he himself was willing to “give it one more year” most were not. “It’s hard to get new volunteers,” he said, “and we don’t have the money to cover the three days.”
Biggest concern is the weather. One rain day wipes out major revenues MacKay said. The other concern is the cost of city services, $38,000 last year for police, fire, sound and cleanup.
Mayor Peggy Noland, who took over “Cracker Day” from the local Lions Club 20 years ago, concurred that the age of committee members is a factor. Pat Miller, one of her original team and parade chair, now spends her time with grandchildren, Noland said. “People just can’t do it anymore.”
Community Event Liaison Phil Biscomer said the event will come off as always with the exception of the fireworks which have always been shot off the end of the pier. With the pier’s “T” destroyed by Tropical Storm Sandy and not likely to be repaired in time for the festival, other options are being explored, Biscomer said. “Right now, it is in the hands of BSO,” he added.
The city is in negotiations with FMG, an event planner that stages the Garlic Festival in Delray Beach and earlier this year held a small country music festival here, to help with Founders’ Days. The three day festival will still consist of parade, vendors, carnival, entertainment and food.
The city will give FMG some seed money up front but will share in the profits from alcohol sales. “This is the model most cities are going to,” Biscomer said.
There is no money in this year’s city budget for the event. Biscomer said funds set aside for Fourth of July may be used. It is his job to get the music and stage the parade. MacKay said bands for the parade have cost $10,000 in the past and the committee spent $35,000 for the entertainment. Biscomer said he will rely more on local musical groups.
Noland said since the event takes place on the beach, funds could be available from the Community Redevelopement Agency. “All will go on as usual,” she said.
Biscomer is also confident this Deerfield Beach tradition will continue. “You shouldn’t be able to tell the difference,” he said.
Founders’ Days is the new generation of Cracker Days established by the DB Lions Club in Pioneer Park 66 years ago. What began as a one-day barbecue, beauty pageant and talent contest, grew to become a three-day carnival. But the Lions Club also suffered from an aging membership and lack of funds which prompted Noland, not a public official at the time, to take over the event, gather a group of volunteers, move it to the beach and rename it Founders’ Days.