Oswego reviewing community event role : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Oswego reviewing community event role|
|Participation in for-profit 'Beats & Eats' fest last summer prompts board talks|
|by John Etheredge|
The Oswego Village Board is re-evaluating its role in putting on for-profit community festivals.
Prompting board discussions at two committee meeting over the past two weeks was a recommendation from Michelle Brown, the village's community relations manager, that the village review and then approve a new agreement with Macey Brooks, a village resident and businessman, to sponsor a second Oswego Beats & Eats festival next summer.
Last April the board voted unanimously to approve an agreement with Brooks to coordinate and organize the first Oswego Beats & Eats festival which was held Aug. 10 at Prairie Point Community Park.
Under terms of the agreement, the village contributed $10,000 to help pay for the festival.
Brown said the fest attracted about 800 people.
In a memo to the village board, Brown noted the fest "has created a buzz for the Village of Oswego and many are eager and excited" for a second fest next year.
Brown added, "Staff feels that due to the overall success of the inaugural event, the second annual event has the potential to become an even larger draw for visitors to the Village of Oswego."
Brown described the "logistics, location, parking and security" for the first fest held Aug. 10 as successful. However, she also acknowledged a "few problems did arise" during the planning phase for the fest that related "to communication and volunteers." But, she added after meeting with Brooks village staff "feels that all of the issues can and will be resolved for future years."
A financial report for the fest that Brown presented to the board showed that income totaled $62,813, including the village's $10,000 contribution and $18,000 from Brooks.
Contributions from local business sponsors and food, beer and ticket sales accounted for the remaining income. Expenses totaled $54,877, leaving a balance of $7,935.
Under terms of the agreement with Brooks, the village can keep the fund balance, Karl Ottosen, an attorney for the village advised the board.
But during a committee meeting last week, board members agreed to discuss the village's sponsorship and participation in future community events with outside contractors.
Board member Gail Johnson said she believes the board needs to have a philosophical discussion concerning its participation in the events.
Concerning the Beats & Eats fest, board members noted there was confusion over the village's role in the festival and whether the village or Brooks was in charge.
Brown told the board village staff "did have some issues with Brooks" relating to communication and volunteers but believe those issues can be resolved in the event the board wishes to partner with Brooks on a second fest.
"After meeting with Brooks we feel we definitely can work out those minor issues for future events," she said.
Board member Pam Parr questioned the village's participation in the fest.
"As I understand it, the village donated $10,000 to a private person, for a for-profit event and that the Beats & Eats group was to take all of the money over and above the village's $10,000 contribution," Parr said, adding, "Here is my problem with the whole thing. We have a private person and a private event and we used our staff, our funds...our finance department and our connections at the park district to made it all happen. We didn't get anything back for staff time that we donated in addition to the $10,000."
Parr said she would not support future events in which a private individual or company is allowed to use the village's staff and money to help put on an event.
Parr told Brooks she believes he "absolutely has the best intentions" in putting on the fest but added, "I think, philosophically, we shouldn't be in the business of taking taxpayer money and funding and supporting private enterprise."
Board member Terry Michels noted that prior to the board's approval of the agreement with Brooks in April he asked what would prevent another individual from coming forward and soliciting village financial support for a community event.
"The comment I got was that Mr. Brooks had the contacts for the connections with (these musical) groups (to appear at the fest)," Michels said, adding, "Whether or not it came off as a village event, it certainly came across as though the village was sponsoring the event."
Michels, however, said he supported the agreement last spring because it was a "venue for the community to try and bring people together. It was a collaborative effort and we were trying to engage people in the community and others from outside the community to help drive business here as well."
However, Michels said the fest "came across (to the public) as though the village was sponsoring the event."
He added he "would be hesitant to go forward" with the fest for another year.
Michels also said he didn't attend the event but did speak to some neighbors in the Lakeview Estates Subdivisions who did and had "some issues" with parking.
"Their general comment was they were not happy with it. They said some of the bands were good, but they didn't think the attendance was great. I don't know whether 800 people for a first event is successful or not, but I would say there is some hesitancy on my part going forward," Michels said.
Parr attended the fest and she said most of the people she talked to seemed to enjoy it.
"It was pretty much the same group that would attend PrairieFest. I don't think they really drew the crowd they wanted for the bands. I think they got an older crowd than what they expected," she said.
"I think there is room for improvement in the way we ran this one," board member Scott Volpe said of the fest, adding, "I don't think we put as much thought into the organization of this one as we probably should have. We were excited to have someone come forward and try to help us run an event."
Brooks thanked the board for their support of the fest and indicated he would like to stage a second fest next year.
Brooks added that he believes that by working with Brown and other village staff members the concerns raised by the board can all be addressed.