Our View: Change needed for GOWD
September 17, 2008
Grand Olde West Days has fallen on hard times. Revenue is down, reserves have been tapped, volunteers are few and far between, and, with multiple locations scattered around town, the two-day event itself has started to feel disjointed.
When we got started talking about this as a board, the questions that kept coming back up were, “How can we make this better?” and “Should we just stop having this event?”
The consensus, of our board, at least, seems to be that there is value to the community in having another festival event each year. What we were split on, though, was the direction that should be taken for future such events.
First, we’ll look at our recommendations for how to make Grand Olde West Days better.
If Grand Olde West Days is to continue in its current style, it needs a breath of fresh air pumped into it in the form of plenty of new volunteers. People are needed to book talent, reserve facilities, manage finances and do all of the grunt work that goes into putting on a festival that thousands will attend. About four people handled all of this last year. And although the current volunteers have put their all into this event, they are getting burnt out from having to work too many hours with too little help. More volunteers are necessary if this event is going to live on.
Also, there needs to be a coherent theme. If we are celebrating the Grand Olde West, there needs to be a better branding effort put forth, with events, activities, booths and music that are reflective of the Olde West, and not just the same as at any other summertime festival in the Rocky Mountains.
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Thirdly, a single location would be better. When there are a few attractions at each of four locations, tourists, visitors and even townsfolk do not see and experience all that a festival has to offer. Although it might be a nice goal to drive folks to different areas of Craig by having multiple sites for events, it is not practical, nor is it welcoming.
However, the lack of enough volunteers and a cohesive theme or location in recent years has us thinking about a couple other ideas for Grand Olde West Days.
We would like to float the possibility of trading in the name Grand Olde West Days and the Memorial Weekend date for a more generic SummerFest when the weather is nicer. This could allow for a greater variety of events, activities, exhibitors and participants. It could include a concert, or not. It could be more about celebrating the return of warm weather and fun outdoors. It could be whatever we wanted to make of it, even including parts of the history and heritage of this area.
The possible location also must be considered when looking at changes and improvements.
The Wyman Museum has facilities in place and already hosts large events. It might be appropriate for this museum to play a more prominent role in this event.
Another option is to utilize all that Downtown Craig has to offer by creating a special weekend to truly showcase all of the local businesses in this community. There still is room enough in this plan for games, music, food, fun and more, just themed around the downtown history and businesses.
Still another possibility is relocating the event entirely to the Moffat County Fairgrounds, and adding in the components of some county fairs that are larger than the annual Moffat County Fair, such as a carnival, craft fair, concert or a demolition derby, but with this event happening much earlier in the summer and without the 4-H contests that are so important to the fair.
Another possibility for Grand Olde West Days, short of ending it altogether, is for the event to take a year off to regroup and rebuild interest and identity. We might find that absence will make hearts grow fonder and stir up a few more volunteers to plan the next event and bring Grand Olde West Days back to life. We also might find that people did not miss it, in which case, it simply could fade away quietly.
Whatever the result, we think the plan for the next such festival – Grand Olde West Days, or SummerFest or whatever the name is – needs to come together only after a true mission and purpose has been determined and sufficient volunteer staff are in place.
Without purpose and plenty of volunteers, the event is a guaranteed money-loser that will not build an audience from year to year. Despite best intentions, it will only continue to wither.
As a community, we need to decide if this is something worth investing time into, and if so, what purpose and role we want it to serve. It’s time to get involved, Craig.