The Nov. 28 annual general meeting of the Berwick Gala Days Association yielded a good news/bad news scenario.
One piece of good news is the organization itself: a group of committed volunteers, all of whom want to the seek a viable way forward in order to continue the event’s nearly 70-year tradition of celebrating community while supporting youth activity clubs in Berwick and its satellite communities.
Also good news was the fact that five youth groups did see some funding through the committee’s decision to give 100 per cent of money raised through food sales and fees for service agreements to the groups that pitched in. Another positive note was there was money left in the bank after all the bills were paid. Unfortunately, in both cases, we aren’t talking about meaningful amounts of money, certainly nothing that will solve any of the organization’s immediate issues.
The bad news – let’s just say that is a bit more complicated. Many people in the community would say the bad news broke last spring, when the Gala Days committee abandoned its Labour Day tradition in order to attract a midway with mechanical rides. But organizers felt they had to try to do something to revive the fair that had been losing steam in the last few years.
Any event that has been running for 67 years needs to be re-evaluated on a regular basis. But effective and responsive change can only be realized after goals are redefined. Assuming Gala Days’ original premise of raising funds for community youth groups is still the priority of the event, then that is the place to begin.
The fact the organization has handed out relatively little in the way of funding to youth groups two years in a row needs to be recognized as a real deterrent for these groups to get involved. Changes need to be made to address this. Annual reimbursement targets should be established so groups don’t go away empty handed or with little to show for their efforts. That could begin by creating a framework where there is no overlap of sales or service and centralizing all event activities in one location. Cutting expenses by dropping events that are money losers – the ATV competition is one example of several that should be axed - and establishing a protocol to only host events that receive third-party sponsorship would also contribute to the bottom line. In other words, if Gala Days can’t afford it, or if it doesn’t generate numbers at the gate or any revenue, it’s got to go.
Over the years, the fair has morphed into a vehicle for attracting people to town in order to create an economic boost for the business community. Making it a priority or finding a way to accommodate that and the youth focus needs to be in the foreground of any goal-setting and outcome-driven exercise.
Volunteers will soon begin the process of planning the 2013 event. Let’s hope they take the tough measures needed to get this community fair back to its roots or re-shape it into a viable event that mirrors new priorities.