Committee unanimously votes to dissolve Riverfest
WINDOM — After years of celebrating Windom’s Riverfest, the Riverfest Committee has decided the 2013 festival may have been the last after the committee voted unanimously on Aug. 12 to dissolve Riverfest in its current form.
Former committee co-chair Denise Houston cited a decrease in volunteer participation as the primary reason behind the decision.
“We’ve been trying to find some volunteers to take it over, especially the parade, for a few years, and people just weren’t stepping up to do that,” Houston said.
Leading up to the Aug. 12 meeting, the committee repeatedly sent out pleas to the community, asking interested community members to step forward and volunteer to help organize the annual event. The group sought out a minimum of 12 volunteers willing to commit at least 12 months to organize future Riverfest celebrations.
“One last final plea to save Riverfest,” read the committee’s final ultimatum to the community. “Unless 12 more people are willing to commit to 12 months to help organize Riverfest by the Sept. 12th meeting, the Riverfest committee will be taking a new direction and evolving into a new town celebration.”
Fourteen people attended the Aug. 12 meeting, and only eight were willing to commit to organizing the next year’s celebration and continuing the previous festival’s format.
“The decision was then made to change the way it is,” Houston said.
She noted that the parade is the event that requires the most volunteers and therefore it is likely future community festivals will not include a parade. The group also discussed centralizing activities to reduce the number of volunteers needed.
“They’ve talked about moving things to the park instead of at the square so it will be more together and not so pieced out all over town,” said Houston.
She has helped with the Riverfest parade for more than 10 years and has been the co-chair of Riverfest for the past three years. She seemed to agree that the committee needs to be restructured if the community festival is going to be sustainable.
“That’s what we need — to change the organization of it so there is more variety in the group so you don’t get stagnated,” Houston said. “Something where everything is covered, and no one is doing all the volunteering.”
While the structure of Riverfest may change, Houston added that other community organizations such as the Karz ‘N Trux and the Women of Today will still be welcome to host events as part of the festival — though they may also be more centralized than in previous years.
Houston has received a variety of responses from Windom residents, but for the most part, she said, people seem to understand the need for a change to happen for future community celebrations.
“Most of them are willing to think that this might be a good thing,” Houston said. “Most of the people are saying it might be time for a change.”
People involved in the parade have been more likely to express disappointment at the anticipated changes, but Houston said when the situation is explained to them, including the number of volunteers required, they are more likely to realize that “it’s harder to do than they think.”
An organizational meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 30 to discuss the transition and possible structural strategies.
While eight people have already indicated they will be willing to help with future plans, Houston said the meeting is open to the public and anyone interested is welcome to attend.