Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Francisco's Farm committee wants to keep going; Renaissance wants key questions answered

By Nate Courtney
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
(This story has been revised to correct a mistaken attribution.)

The Planning Committee for the Francisco’s Farm Art Festival decided at its meeting Sept. 29 that the festival should continue in 2012 because they believe enough people have committed to raise necessary funds and do other work.

The committee, which will meet again Thursday, also decided the venue should be Equus Run Vineyard, where it was moved last year after seven years at Midway College.

After the planning committee meeting, the Midway Renaissance board voted “in favor of Francisco's Farm continuing, especially if they have enough interest for that to happen in an effective manner,” according to a report provided by Marcie Christensen of Renaissance. However, the directors won’t fully endorse it until two items are resolved: First, who will be responsible for the finances of the festival, and second, who is going to be the driving force of the festival and keep the momentum going forward?

The driving force of Francisco’s Farm has been Midway Renaissance, the future of which is in doubt.

“We will not continue to exist without people taking leadership positions,” Renaissance President Randy Thomas, said at a general Renaissance meeting on Sept. 26. Thomas has said he will be leaving the Renaissance board at the end of the year.

Three days later, at the planning committee meeting, Cynthia Bohn, right, owner of Equus Run, agreed to serve as co-chair of the festival.

“I love art,” Bohn said at the meeting. “But it will take a village to run this festival.”

Phil Dare, a regular volunteer for Francisco’s Farm and chair of the Greenspace Committee of Renaissance Jon Maybriar, a former Renaissance member who has volunteered to help with the festival, said there are Midway residents who feel separated from the organization. “There is a mistrust,” he said. “It needs to be repaired.”

Dare Maybriar also said that the planning committee meeting was the “first serious dialogue about including downtown Midway.” Downtown businesses were upset that the festival moved three and a half miles away.

Several committee members also wanted to have a meeting with the Midway City Council and Mayor Tom Bozarth to “bridge the gap,” as Dare Maybriar put it.

One way to bridge the gap is transparency of information, Bohn said. “Communication,” she said. “That will help unify Midway again.” She said the key mission of Francisco’s Farm is simple: to give back to the community.

Bohn acknowledged that the festival’s overall preparation was an issue its first year at Equus Run. Everything from the loosely kept entrance gate to toilet paper control led to some revenue loss, the committee said. Christensen said the festival account had about $1,000.

In order to counter these flaws, Bohn wants to see the creation of specific teams for parking, signs, advertising, music, production, and food vendors, which could improve revenue for the festival, which she said drew more than 11,000 visitors last year.

Bohn has offered her 16 employees to Francisco’s Farm but the festival has been heavily reliant on a larger number of volunteers.

Former Renaissance president Diana Ratliff expressed her concerns in an interview with the Midway Messenger.

She said the important point of the festival’s success is the volunteers, and it can’t replace 400 volunteers with 16 employees.

Ratliff said Francisco’s Farm should still remain a community engaged event, and there are a number of people in the community that would be willing to help.

Several steps the committee is taking include: having a downtown restaurant owner on the committee, promoting downtown at the festival, and alternating future committee meetings between Equus Run and downtown. Committee members said alternating the meetings would reinforce the understanding that the festival is a Midway event, not just an Equus Run event.

The committee’s next meeting will be Thursday, Oct. 13 at 5:30 p.m. at United Bank.

Committee members know that the longevity of Francisco’s Farm depends on the community and its volunteers, like Sara Hicks.

“I love the festival because I love the arts,” Hicks said at the meeting. “I don’t want to see it leave. I’m here to see it stay.”

Information for this story, originally published in the Midway Messenger, was also provided by Dick Yarmy.

1 comment:

Marcie Christensen said...

(The following comments are my own, as I no longer represent either Midway Renaissance or the Francisco’s Farm Arts Committee.) Although the Festival has never had 400 volunteers, I completely agree with Diana Ratliff’s other comment that “Francisco’s Farm should remain a community engaged event, and there are a number of people in the community that would be willing to help”. I applaud all the dedicated volunteers who have already stepped up and are now actively serving on the Planning Committee for the 2012 Festival. I have full confidence they will produce an excellent event that is both larger than Midway (drawing volunteers, sponsors, and visitors from the Bluegrass and beyond) and enlarges Midway (once again bringing thousands of visitors to town).