Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Shawn Jansen
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Willow River Area Days needs new leadership

 


The future of Willow River Area Days is uncertain. Willow River Mayor Brent Switzer said in an interview Wednesday, May 8, that the Willow River Commercial Club notified the city by letter back in September of its decision to step down from organizing and supervising the annual event.

The Commercial Club has been the organizer of the event since the city of Willow River passed a resolution in the late 80s designating the club as such, said Dave Prachar, last year’s Willow River Area Days Committee chair and member of the Commercial Club.

The Willow River Area Days Committee was a subcommittee of the Commercial Club and met monthly beginning in January or February to plan for the celebration, according to Prachar. He said anywhere between five and nine people would attend the planning meetings. Switzer and Councilor Vickie Whitehouse served on the committee, although not in official capacities, they said.

The letter sent to the city dated September 10, 2018, stated the club decided earlier that year in February to discontinue the club’s role in running the celebration, effective following the 2018 Willow River Days event.

Although the letter stated no reason behind the decision, Prachar, Whitehouse and Switzer agreed that lack of volunteers for planning and working the festival was part of it. No one would go on record to state other reasons.

It doesn’t appear to be a financial reason. Although the Commercial Club has not had the income from fishing contests since the dam failure, Prachar said they pursued and received grants for the events. He said Wednesday, “You need money and volunteers. We had all the money we needed.”

The club’s letter to the city stated: “By giving this notice now it will allow the City of Willow River time to make decisions and plan future events.”

The city acknowledged the letter during its October meeting, but no group has come forward to take on organizing the event, and it is not apparent that an organization to take on that role has actively been sought by the city.

According to Councilor Vickie Whitehouse, the League of Minnesota Cities advised the city that festivals should be run by a nonprofit, or 501c3-IRS designated organization. She said neither the city, a business nor an individual can accept the donations involved in the running of the festival.

Switzer said that an organization willing to organize the festival is required to have a nonprofit status and be able to provide insurance. Any organization seeking to take on the sponsorship has to seek city approval and approach the Commercial Club for some seed money left over from last year’s festival, about $4,000, Prachar thought. Prachar stated in an email, “I averaged the last three (3) years of expenses and they averaged to $8,600 per year.”

Switzer said, “The city of Willow River would like it (the Willow River Area Days festival) to happen, but it has to happen the right way.”

A group of citizens interested in organizing the festival met Saturday, May 11, at Cornerstone Utility, according to the meeting organizer, Ann Mlaskoch. She said a few people came, and they will be going to the next city council meeting, which is 7 p.m. June 3. There is someone interested in organizing the run/walk and will be seeking permission for that, she said.

Mlaskoch said of the festival, “That promotes everything.” She said the festival has an economic impact on businesses and organizations. It brings a lot of people to town for the parade, she said, and the Willow River Parent Teacher Organization does major fundraising during the festival.

The Community Club has indicated they are still planning to prepare the Music and Memories program that fourth Sunday, July 28.

 

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