The Pride of the Fox Riverfest board and its crew of 150 volunteers face a daunting task indeed.
Pride of the Fox LLC has averaged 10 months of planning and preparation each year to put on each annual three-day festival. This year, it has only about four months to do so. That assumes the St. Charles City Council follows through tonight on its action as a committee two weeks ago in returning the festival to the group.
The follow-through action is expected — aldermen voted unanimously to recommend direction of the festival be returned to Pride of the Fox LLC. Because it was a unanimous vote, it is on the council’s “omnibus vote” agenda tonight.
Omnibus items are those which have received unanimous support of a council committee and for which the support is expected to remain. The council typically approves all the omnibus items with one fell motion for approval and vote, although aldermen have been known to pull items off the omnibus agenda during a council meeting for a separate discussion and vote.
Julie Farris returns as the executive director of Pride of the Fox LLC, the agency that has overseen the annual festival for the past several years. Farris said she is confident that she, her board and their dedicated crew of 150 or so volunteers will be able to pull the festival together, although she admits the task is daunting. This year’s Pride of the Fox Riverfest is June 7-9.
But Farris said she is big on checklists — the use of which many attribute to being well-organized. As if to prove her zeal for their use, during an interview, Farris pulled out and displayed a large sheet of paper bearing many folds, as well as a handful of charts, each containing maybe a dozen or so items that need to be checked off as the festival activities are organized.
Pride of the Fox LLC plans to maintain the family-oriented focus it has cultivated for the festival since it took over in 2009, Farris said. Despite the late start, Farris said residents can expect to see new activities in 2013 — a Diaper Derby and a Big Wheels Race for the kids, a Dancing with the Stars event, and a Movie Under the Stars as well.
That’s in addition to the usual dragon boat races, the water ski show and other events that have become standard fare at Pride of the Fox Riverfest.
Her enthusiasm and passion for the festival is apparent as she discusses it, and it is clear she is eager to be back.
Moving Past Upheaval
That might seem at odds with the events of late last fall, when Farris stepped down as executive director and the Pride of the Fox LLC voted to disband. The events leading up to that are unclear, and no one one seems willing to discuss the situation openly except in vague terms revolving around the announcement last summer that Pride of the Fox LLC would merge into the Downtown St. Charles Partnership. After that, the details become murky.
Farris, who declined to discuss it late last week, told aldermen she stepped down and her board decided to dissolve simply to expedite the announced merger with the Downtown St. Charles Partnership, believing it would begin oversight of the riverfest beginning in 2013. The framework for that had not been set up, however, and it appeared the riverfest would languish.
Lynne Schwartz, the Downtown St. Charles Partnership’s executive director, said she could not explain why the situation transpired the way it did. The Downtown St. Charles Partnership discussed hiring Farris or taking her on as a contractor to organize riverfest, but the conversation never moved to the next step.
Likewise, Farris declined to discuss he situation except to refer back to what she told aldermen.
The situation appeared dire enough, however, that Mayor Donald DeWitte attempted to revitalize the St. Charles Festival Committee, which for years oversaw riverfest. That drew the attention of Farris and Pride of the Fox LLC, which Farris said never really wanted to get out of riverfest in the first place.
That led to Pride of the Fox LLC’s eleventh-hour appeal to resume oversight of the fest. Aldermen preferred Farris’s pitch over that of the former St. Charles Festival Committee.
Regardless, both Farris and Schwartz expressed confidence last week about working together on the 2013 riverfest. Schwartz said she is grateful Pride of the Fox LLC is willing to consider the interests of the downtown merchants. Farris expressed similar enthusiasm, saying the merchants play a big role in making the festival a success.
- Jan. 23, 2013: St. Charles Pride of the Fox Riverfest Is Back
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