Last gasp for Lakefair

July 9th, 2008 by Ken

This is it.  This is the final shot for Capital Lakefair.  If it can’t make it this time around, the end will be near.

This community festival is entering its 51st year and things haven’t been tighter or more important.   Lakefair has lost the active support of the City of Olympia, the support of some of the downtown business interests and has been short of money and short of volunteers.

The last two years has seen a significant decline in participation and dollars.  Many of the local non-profit groups which depend on Lakefair for much of their annual budget have had two years of near collapse. Last year it rained the entire time, while two years ago  saw temperatures climb into the 90’s most days keeping visitors and food buyers away.

But Lakefair has one thing going for it this year – – Bob Barnes.  Barnes, who was Lakefair president in 1981 has come out of retirement to see if he can’t rejuvenate this community event.

He has pulled in major sponsors, found more volunteers, and has revamped Lakefair to make it “more family friendly.”   Barnes has committed to chairing the event for two years.  This is his first.

But he admits he has an uphill battle.  In his president’s message in the Official Program, Barnes takes on the City of Olympia and its assertion that Lakefair costs the city money and has no significant benefits.  Barnes talks about Lakefair’s intangibles and says that community festivals are just as important to a city as roads, police and fire protection.  He also takes issue with downtown businesses which feel that Lakefair is harmful to their bottom line.

It’s doubtful that Barnes can change the city’s mind or some of the downtown businesses.  I doubt he can get them to support Lakefair.  But there’s no doubt – – he’s trying.

If Barnes can’t turn this festival around and garner significant community support then no one can.  This is the last gasp for Lakefair.  By next year it could be gone, or Barnes can pull off a miracle.

I don’t much believe in miracles.

Posted in History, Informational, The Real News

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