For 18 Years, Gilbert AZ has said so long to the hot weather with its End Of Summer Fest. But this year the community swan to hot weather was a casualty of budget reductions. The seven-member Citizens Budget Committee, Community Services recommended it be eliminated.
Last year’s So Long to Summer Festival drew about 6,000 people who paid a $4 admission to listen to a live band, play carnival games, ride a kiddies train and participate in other activities in a festive atmosphere.
This comes on the heals of the controversy surrounding the Gilbert days parade. The event was all but cancelled until a few big name private sponsors kicked in money to save the event.
But Community Services Director Jim Norman said his department must begin to “reinvent” how festivities are organized in the face of reduced funding and staff.
“We’ll try not to be too dramatic with some of the events we’ve been involved in for the first year,” he said, noting the change would occur gradually.
Town Council at a special meeting May 1 directed Norman and his staff to work toward a 100 percent cost recovery for festivities over the next three to four years.
Council also eliminated $38,500 for special events in the coming fiscal year.
Norman said funds for Gilbert Days and Fourth of July, both organized by the Gilbert Promotional Corp., came out of this allocation.
But he noted that for the last two years, the Town Council has approved additional funding for both events.
“I would imagine the Council will do that again in the future but funding will then have to come from contingency instead of the Community Services budget,” he said.
The special events unit had three staffers coordinating events until one member was transferred recently to coordinate the sports coalition groups.
Although the transferred staff member did “double duty” for a while, Norman said he was able to test whether a two-member team could offer the same support as before.
“The two people had to work hard, but still we were able to do it,” he said.
With So Long to Summer Fest eliminated, it would be one less activity to work on for two staff members next year.
Gail Disch, a member of the Citizens Budget Committee, said Constitution Week also took place in September during the same time frame as the summer fest. A private group funds and organizes Constitution Week.
Although the summer fest is not the most popular town-organized festival – the Halloween carnival drew 8,000 last year – “it was a very popular event,” Disch said.
“Perhaps it was an event that a private group or promoter is interested in taking over and doing,” she added.