Well, well, well, Lawrenceburg (and its environs) certainly is all abuzz over the possible demise of Fall Fest. Of course Fall Fest started out in amid controversy. Let’s turn the clock back to the city’s bicentennial.
There was a mayor and council who couldnt often agree. Then mayor Paul “Truck” Tremain and three members of the city council (AND to make it more interesting - the clerk-treasurer) disagreed on almost everything.
One of the council people back then issued the famous ultimatum “we don’t get our clock, you don’t get your gateway” during down to the wire negotiations for the 2002 municipal development fund budget.
Tremain is gone, and so are two of the council people. Only Millie Hornbach is left of the disagreeing councilpeople. Tom Rowlett and Mick McNimery are still around but not on council. Rowlett would lose to Bill-Bill Bruner, back then a kid under 30; McNimery moved to Greendale a bit later.
Hornbach resigned before her term was up, and Bill Cunningham was appointed to the seat. The 2002 MDF budget, then encompassing all of the city’s riverboat casino revenues, was passed, and both the clock and gateway were part of it obviously. There was plenty of squabbling, but there was also compromise, reluctant, but compromise nonetheless.
Fall Fest, initially to mark the city’s bicentennial in 2002, came out of the mayor and council’s squabbling and that budget. A few years into the festival, I ran into a spot of trouble, personnally, because I said in a column I thought the money could be better spent on something other than a big festival with fancy music acts. I still feel that way.
However, the folks on the committee, many of them the same folks who were on it from the beginning, are GOOD people. Hollywood Casino’s revenue is going down, and council has been trying to pare down expenses.
Meanwhile, here we are with another stand-off between Lawrenceburg council and mayor. The council people and mayor then and now are not bad people. There is room for a compromise, everyone just needs to put their egos aside to do what is best.
Mayor Dennis Carr has put mostly city employees in charge of Fall Fest, and while city employees were always a part of it, there were many more people volunteering and employees going beyond the call of duty. Personally, I think the new marketing director should be watching Hollywood Casino like a hawk, not coordinating all the details of Fall Fest.
When Bruner voices concern that Fall Fest is too big and agrees with Mike Lawrence, that should be a loud wake up call. Bruner said at council he is for continuing Fall Fest, and suggested a scaled back fashion. He talked about the thousands of folks coming into town, and locals who stay away from the festival.
Cook is not opposed to the festival either, but wants the volunteer committee were reinstated.
When people ask why wouldn’t you want 40,000 or 50,000 people coming into your city, here is my answer: are they coming back? How do locals feel? Every spring and summer you have people complaining about “noise” from the Lawrenceburg Speedway, but drive through the parking lot or listen in to conversations and a lot of those folks at the Speedway are at least local.
We had thousands and thousands and thousands of people going to Hollywood (formerly Argosy) Casino for years. Did they come downtown?
So, here is the solution. Put Marie Edwards back in charge. Get the folks back on the committe who were on it before. Scale back the musical acts, do one “younger” act, not a bunch of old rock ‘n’ rollers who are formerly of... some band.
Start slowly scaling back the festival budget, so as the revenue slows the money can be used in other ways. While quitting cold turkey doesn’t always work for smokers, it’s not going to go well with Fall Fest either.
Have the city marketing director involved with Fall Fest and promoting what is planned for the event center, and get Lawrenceburg Main Street more involved with Fall Fest planning as well
And here’s another thought, this one for the merchants, hand out coupons to get people to come back to town. By one get one half off or free are always nice to have. Do the free rides. Make Fall Fest similar to Dillsboro Homecoming or a Farmers Fair, but for Lawrenceburg folks.
There. Am I going to get in trouble again?
Erika Schmidt Russell is editor of The Journal-Press and The Dearborn County Register.