GRANTS PASS – A variety of community leaders and representatives of local community organizations met with city staff Thursday, Nov. 12, to discuss the future of annual special events in Grants Pass. The productive discussion resulted in several initial action plans for moving forward with signature community events once state-mandated restrictions are lifted on large gatherings.
The meeting was facilitated by City Manager Aaron Cubic, who explained how the city had come to assume presenting several, signature community events after the dissolution of the Grants Pass Town Center Association who used to facilitate many of the events discussed.
Absorbing those events into the city’s contract with Experience Grants Pass to provide tourism promotion “created a financial burden” for the city, said Cubic.
“Looking at our current financial obligations, the city cannot feasibly continue to present these community events,” he said.
Cubic called the members of the meeting together to determine “how the city can be a partner without taking the lead on these events,” Cubic said.
Cubic said the city taking a primary position in presenting the special events resulted in an unexpected side effect of the events losing some of the collaborative community spirit that was behind the original creation and tradition of the events.
“I wanted to bring you here today to determine your interest and potential partnerships that can be formed. Some of you are event experts because of the events you already present,” said Cubic.
Forming new partnerships with various community groups will return the community spirit to those events, he said.
Jill Hamm, president of the Fruitdale Grange suggested there was a need to create a new merchant’s association to fill the void left by the TCA. She said the new organization needed to be a dues-based association with a paid position under the direction of a board of directors to facilitate operations.
Hamm offered the Grange as a site for future meetings to discuss the formation of such an organization and offered to take the lead in coordinating those meetings.
Tamra Martin, director of the Josephine County Fairgrounds, said the fairgrounds board of directors is interested in pursuing the idea of becoming the new presenting organization of the city’s annual Back to the Fifties Weekend.
Kathy Simmons and Jim Reynolds of the Rogue Valley Classic Cruisers said their club is still planning on presenting their annual classic car show in July 2021. They said the club hopes to be able to return to Riverside Park if COVID restrictions have been lifted by then.
Cubic agreed that Riverside Park was an ideal location for the car show if the city is allowed to help facilitate gatherings by next summer.
Josie Molloy, executive director of the Grants Pass Chamber of Commerce, said her board of directors is interested in assisting the city with downtown promotions and the potential of forming what she called a “Main Street Alliance” to assist the Chamber with presenting the annual Christmas parade.
Randy Fisher of the Grants Pass Active Club, known for presenting the annual Boatnik event drawing thousands of people to Grants Pass every year, said his organization was discussing the potential of handling annual Fourth of July festivities.
“We’ve done it before. It’s something we’ll bring up to the club and we’ll get back to you,” said Fisher.
Cubic said the city would still be able to help support events through in-kind services, site reservations, and potential sponsorship dollars to help promote the events.
“We have always been active partners with regards to that,” said Cubic.
The group determined further discussion needed to be had with regards to the annual Art Along the Rogue festival, which was first established as a city-sponsored event. Initial discussion suggested that a new downtown association might assume the event.
Bob Crouse of Fort Vannoy Farms offered private partnership collaboration. Jeff Voigt, who served with the TCA for years to present many of the signature events discussed, offered his expertise and experience to the members of the group as a resource.
The meeting concluded with plans for Hamm to coordinate a future meeting of the principal attendees, and follow-up discussions to be had between city staff and those organizations expressing interest in specific events.
“Our community is great because of individuals like yourselves,” said Cubic.