|Local residents enjoy the Helper Art's Festival last year. The event is one of many hosted in Carbon County though the summer months. Economic hardships are making the community events harder to fund every year.|
It appears America's economic woes are hitting really close to home as organizers for two of the county's top summertime celebrations are finding themselves cash strapped this year.
Representatives from Helper and Sunnyside cities appealed to the Carbon County Recreation and Transportation Special Service District board Monday to provide aid for Community Daze and the Helper Arts and Music Festival.
The two cities cited rising fuel and supply costs and overall financial belt tightening as hindrances to the events.
"I had a phone call with Donald McCourt (a main organizer of the Sunnyside Community Daze rodeo) and he said that costs had gone up so much that he (McCourt) was wondering if they were going to be able to have it this year," noted boardmember Bill Krompel.
The rodeo organizers have been making the county circuit in the past couple of months looking for a $3,000 donation to help ensure that the 2008 event will happen. They appeared before the commissioners explaining that a jump in livestock and fuel prices has compromised the rodeo's future.
While the rodeo is technically a private effort put on by the Grassy Trail Riding Club, Sunnyside has embraced the effort to raise the money due to its importance to the city's Community Daze.
McCourt and Sunnyside recorder Polly Sanderson were present at the May 5 meeting.
"The stock prices have jumped from $4,000 to $7,000 in one year," said Sanderson, highlighting why the joint effort is needed to ensure the rodeo's future.
However, before their item on the district's agenda was tackled, they seemed to knew how things would turn out as they heard the board's decision on assistance for Helper's art festival.
Helper Councilmember P.J. Jenson had turned in a request to the board for $25,000 to help with the city's big summer event.
He said it wasn't really rising costs that was the problem, but that the private donor base wasn't quite panning out as it had it previous years.
Both events received kudos from the board.
Boardmember Neil Breinholt threw his support behind the festival.
"The last few years, this event has really blossomed and I talked with Melanie Steele (one of the key organizers) who said that $21,000 in corporate donations is solid," said Breinholt. "Artists have really embraced this and the amount of energy put into it is extraordinary."
He pointed out that the festival is drawing performers from around the country who are actually buying property in the area because of the potential for Helper to become a hub.
"Something really robust is happening in our backyard. We need to find someway to support it," said Breinholt.
As for Community Daze, Breinholt was also positive about the event's importance to the whole county.
"I have some friends who own motels and they tell me Community Daze fills them up," he said.
Despite the support, the boardmembers found themselves in a bind when it came to trying to fund the events.
"Historically you have funded only brick-and-mortar projects for cities," said Nick Sampinos, who serves as the district board's attorney. "You have tried to stay away from activities as it could open a floodgate of requests."
The question posed to the two cities' representatives was whether they had approached the county's restaurant tax advisory board for funding.
They had and were told that there was no monies available at this time, as $100,000 from the tax had been earmarked for marketing the North Range Shooting and Recreation area and the county fairgrounds.
Breinholt, who also serves on the county's restaurant tax advisory board, said, however, that the funds had yet to be spent.
The discussion then turned to loosening up some of the $100,000 to be used for Community Daze and the arts festival.
"We need to find someway to fund functioning programs that is both expedient and politically correct," said Krompel.
The district board encouraged the Sunnyside and Helper representatives to re-approach the restaurant tax board and if they were turned down again, then return to the special service district board's June meeting to further review the situations.
The special service district board meets the first Monday of the month at 3 p.m. in the conference room at the planning and zoning building.