Local summer festival in doubt

FAIRMONT – The Holy Hotdish cookoff was hugely popular in 2010, helping build momentum leading up to Fairmont’s Interlaken Heritage Days.

The cookoff is back again, albeit under a different name, but there is confusion and unanswered questions about what people should expect at this year’s festival the weekend of June 14.

“If there’s going to be anything, it’s going to be downsized,” said Bonnie Taplin, one of a handful of people who have coordinated the event the past few years.

The problem lies in part with a lack of finances and reliable manpower to help organize and run the event. The financial troubles began last year, according to Taplin.

“There were people – sponsors – who were going to donate money, and they never came through with it,” she said.

Normally, the city contributes money to help, with the council approving $6,000 last year.

Fairmont city administrator Mike Humpal is recommending the council not give any funds this year: “There’s some outstanding bills I’m concerned with.”

That leads him to ask how IHD spent the city’s $6,000.

“If someone were to take over, I would ask to look at the checkbook, and see where the money was spent,” Humpal said. “I want to know who received what, and who was and wasn’t paid.”

Taplin doesn’t have the receipts. She wasn’t the treasurer last year – the person who was no longer holds that position – but she can easily rattle off how much the entertainment was to book, including:

o Two bands for the street dances Friday and Saturday night at $4,400.

o The water show for $3,200.

o Four high school bands in the IHD parade at $500 each, a total of $2,000.

o The petting zoo at $1,500.

o The bungee jump for $1,500.

o Native American dancers for $300.

o The Wendinger Band was $650.

o The Reptile Man for $600.

o A puppet lady for $450.

And then there was $3,500-plus spent on advertising, which is the last of the bills Taplin says IHD is working to pay off.

Over the winter, committee members held fundraisers at Pizza Ranch and ran concession stands during City Band concerts and during the Glows parade – not to raise money for the 2014 IHD but the previous year’s festival.

“We have tried to raise money,” said Velma Schaal, who serves on the IHD committee. “It was not the best winter for doing things people want to come to.”

Those churches and organizations participating in the Holy Hotdish have not been required to contribute a percentage of their proceeds, though that may be changing in the future.

The last Holy Hotdish event of the season will be hosted by IHD on June 17, the week after the festival.

“We’re hoping to make enough that day so that we can pay off our debts,” Schaal said.

So what is slated for 2014?

The American Legion will host a street dance on Friday night, with music from the Minnesota-based rock band Decadence Inc.

The Borderline Cruisers will have their annual classic car show Saturday on Downtown Plaza.

Fairmont United Methodist Church will serve a community meal.

First Congregational United Church of Christ will have its pie and ice cream social.

Kiwanis will offer inflatable bouncy castles for the kids.

The Legion will cook Belgian waffles. Veterans will eat free.

There are also talks about a craft and flea market, and other groups in Fairmont are starting to get organized to set up their own activities for the weekend.

The IHD parade, however, seems unlikely this year. Volunteers who had signed up to organize the parade recently backed out, Taplin said, which leaves little time left to organize it.

When the debt is paid off from 2013, Taplin plans to step down from the IHD committee, making the 2014 festival her last.

“I’m not doing it anymore,” she said. “… It’s time somebody else steps up and takes over. I think people really don’t understand how much work it is.”

“It doesn’t have to be,” added Schaal, “if you have people to help, people willing to step up and help and do what they say they’re going to do.”