Volunteers Sought to Revitalize International Festival

By Lura Jackson

 

The biggest event of the year in Calais – the International Homecoming Festival – is in dire need of revitalization, and the city is now actively seeking volunteers willing to start fresh in revamping the festival. The situation was discussed by the Economic Development Committee on Friday, October 6th, during which a tentative date was set for a meeting between the Chamber of Commerce and the City Council and all community members interested in participating.

This year’s festival avoided disaster at the last moment when the international element of the parade was cancelled due to a lack of volunteers to assist with the border crossing. St. Stephen Mayor Allan MacEachern stepped in to rally volunteers, and the parade successfully made it across the St. Croix River. The near-catastrophe highlighted the need to reorganize the event. 

“We can’t let this go away,” said City Manager Jim Porter to the committee on Friday. He relayed the suggestion of Mayor Billy Howard in funding a position within the city to coordinate the festival. Those present agreed that possible options may include providing a stipend to Economic Director Julie Jordan or working directly with the Chamber of Commerce. Tim Crowe, a member of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, said that he felt that was a strong possibility.

“We need to have our own theme,” suggested Tim Krug. “Kind of like how Eastport did with the Pirate Fest. We need to have something that sets us apart.” Krug said that the downtown area offered an excellent spot to have outdoor concerts by the riverfront, and said that nationally-known bands should be attracted to raise interest.

“It is stale. It needs a shot of something,” agreed City Manager Jim Porter. 

When a community member questioned who is benefitting from the International Festival based on her observations of the occasionally empty clubs and a conversation with a local hotel owner, Porter responded that there was a bigger overall benefit from the thousands of incoming visitors. “Just because they’re not going to this bar or that bar, they’re shopping at the IGA or Shop n’ Save,” Porter said. “I know they fill the hotels that weekend, that’s the only weekend they can count on being full,” he added.

“Attendance to the festival is down over the last several years because of the lack of enthusiasm of the community,” Mike Sherrard said. “If the community got more involved and we created a bigger exposition, maybe more people would come back.”

Community members that are interested in being a part of the newly reforming festival committee are invited to attend the meeting between the council and the chamber. New officers and committee members will be appointed at that time. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for October 26th at 5:00 p.m., just before the dark fiber public hearing. It will be in the St. Croix No. 1 Fire House or the council chambers (the location will be posted at the city building).