What is your obligation or commitment to your community?
Letter to the Editor
Last updated 5/15/2019 at 10:20am
What is your obligation or commitment
to your community?
Another Colorama weekend is done and this was a particularly challenging one for those of us at the Chamber of Commerce. In 1994, 38 years into the 63-year history of Colorama, the carnival moved from Coulee Dam onto “carnival flats” in North Dam Park, and the vendor and food fair moved into the picnic area in the same park. Permits to use this land are secured each year from the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), and, in recent years, from the Coulee Area Park and Recreation District (CAPRD) as well, since they now manage the park on behalf of the BOR. On Thursday afternoon, three hours before the carnival was to begin, we were informed by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) that we would not be able to operate the carnival at its current location because of easement issues. Despite the fact that we had secured the identical permits and permissions for 25 years for this exact location, and we had never been alerted to the necessity of an easement-right permit by the leasing entities, this year’s mandate was to move it, or don’t operate. After three-plus hours of negotiations between myself, members of the Chamber Board and BPA, an agreement was reached to allow the carnival to operate within the easement with the exception of ONE ride; NINE other rides could remain in place, with total liability falling to the Chamber.
Our current carnival operator is Rainier Amusements. They are owned and operated by a smart, honest, kind, hardworking, second-generation carnival family. They have state-of-the-art computerized systems that allow for accurate accounting of each ride usage, they pay above-average wages, their staff wears clean uniforms, and they enjoy providing quality entertainment to kids of all ages and sizes. In my opinion, they are one of the best companies in the business. The second that word got out into the community that there might be an issue with the carnival, the naysayers in our town came out of the woodwork, disparaging the appearance of the workers, the quantity and condition of the rides, the choice of music that was being played at the carnival, and blaming the carnival, the chamber, and the town for disappointing their children. All of this before most complainers had even set foot inside the carnival grounds. In the end, I heard nothing but compliments from the kids and parents who enjoyed the carnival this weekend, and the carnival’s revenue was almost identical to the previous two years that Rainier was our carnival supplier.
Blame about how this could have been avoided is open for interpretation. Should the lessors (BOR and CAPRD) have been clearer to us about the power-line easement? Should Bonneville Power have weighed in earlier in the week when the equipment arrived, or at some time previously in the last 25 years? Should the carnival supplier have been smarter about where the tallest ride was placed in proximity to the overhead power lines? Should I have used more common sense and questioned someone, anyone, about the power lines overhead? Clearly, all this needs to be re-worked for next year, but what was so discouraging, and so disappointing to me, was my town’s reaction to the situation and their involvement in Colorama.
We have been planning Colorama for MONTHS, and, of course, it has been held on Mother’s Day weekend for the last 63 years. We have searched for volunteers to help staff the 98 different volunteer jobs that are needed to pull off the festival for the same MONTHS we have been in the planning stage. We have advertised the need for volunteers in the newspaper, on Facebook, on our website, in our weekly newsletter; and a few of us have made nuisances of ourselves asking every person we encounter if they’d be willing to volunteer. At the opening of the festival, a whopping 44 of the 98 spots still needed filling. This may be a community festival, but the majority of the community does not become involved in the planning or staffing of it. Our tiny band of volunteers worked 15- to 20-hour days — doubling, tripling, and quadrupling up on shifts, just to staff all of the open positions. It is VERY discouraging to those of us who are working so hard to hear and read such hasty and mean comments about the festival, and equally as discouraging to hear no offers for solutions or help from these same keyboard warriors. In the eight years I have been at the Chamber, not a single person whose critical comments I read on Facebook has volunteered for ANY event the Chamber has hosted (and we host TEN each year).
This, sadly, is not unique to our festival this weekend (although this event is certainly enjoyed by a majority of our town). Every organization in town struggles with the same problem of volunteer labor, or lack thereof. In fact, we have a name for this problem; we call it the STP, which means that the Same Ten (or Two) People do everything for the organization. The Ridge Riders, the Eagles, the Moose, the Lions, the Rotary, the Net Pens, and the Legion, to name a few, are all struggling with offering services and entertainment for our community. Why do so many in our community not want to get involved and volunteer to help our community organizations? Why are so many content to watch, and often to criticize, but unwilling to give back to make our community stronger and enjoyable for all? Our very small groups of willing volunteers are getting burned out at a rapid pace, and before long, the community will reap what it has not sown — when this happens, there will not be a carnival with just one fewer ride, but no carnival and no festival at all. I beg of you, please step up and get involved for the betterment of all!
Chamber of Commerce