June 12, 2014
The Verona PressConnectVerona.com
Hometown Days 2014
Unified Newspaper Group
The traditions Veronans have grown to cherish over the past few years of Home-town Days will look the same June 12-15, but the behind-the-scenes work to put it together was anything but.Verona Area Chamber of Commerce executive direc-tor Karl Curtis said people shouldn’t expect to see much difference from the 2013 cel-ebration as the group became the second to take over man-agement of Hometown Days in the last three years. “We took over the festival in November and that basi-cally gave us … six months if we want to make any changes and that’s really not enough time to think any-thing through,” Curtis said. “We made the decision to stay with the status quo for 2014.”The transition to new leadership took place in late November, when Curtis and Brava Enterprises president Brad Zaugg, who had run the festival for the two years prior, announced they’d reached an agreement for the chamber to take over.The chamber nearly took over two years ago when the Verona Community Better-ment group folded in Octo-ber 2011 after having run the festival since the 1970s. Ultimately, the chamber decided against it at the time before Zaugg stepped in to save the festival.This time, though, Curtis said the chamber’s board felt it was the right time to take on the challenge, and he’s excited to see how it develops, especially look-ing toward the 2015 festival when the group has more time to reflect on ways to enhance the festival.As a small example, Curtis pointed to the “Medallion Hunt” that ran from last Thursday to the beginning of Hometown Days.“No one’s going to be able to retire and go to Tahi-ti when they find the medal-lion, but it’s a fun little twist,” he said. “But those are the kinds of enhance-ments, given more time, we’d like to bring to the 2015 festival.”
Although there’s plenty to enjoy at Hometown Days, it doesn’t come without a cost. The size of that cost is something Curtis said he never fully appreciated until this year.“What I realized but didn’t really think about was that folks who are in the parade, your entertainment type acts, all get paid,” Cur-tis said. “It’s something in the back of your mind you know, but when you’re at the fairgrounds having fun, having an Optimist burger you don’t think about it.”He said budget size, and the importance of coming out of the festival in the black for the organization running it, can limit the entertainment options at times.“Quite often people come up to us and say, ‘Why can’t you have this act at the fair-grounds?’” he said. “I’ll have to say to them, ‘the problem is that costs $2,500 for one day.’ If you’re not charging admission to these things, it’s coming out of your profits.”That said, Curtis also said he’s excited about every-thing the festival does offer, from the parade and music to the beer tent and chil-dren’s activities.
A business benefit
While the changes for this year were minimal, one behind-the-scenes change offered a glimpse at what may come in future years.With the chamber in charge, it offered member businesses a big discount on the fee to enter a float in the parade, something Cur-tis said was a way to “throw some benefits to our mem-bers.”“How do we make the fes-tival more of a benefit to our membership?” Curtis said of his hopes for future Home-town Days festivals. “I don’t mean how do we make the festival a money-making vehicle for our members. We’re talking exposure, promotion, awareness of the businesses in the commu-nity.”
A smooth process
Although the chamber didn’t have tons of time to plan for this year’s festival, Curtis said it was a “seam-less” planning process.He and Hometown Days coordinator Kristen Roos-malen, who was hired after the chamber took over, have worked together nicely, he said.“It’s been going very
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Come on down to Hometown Days
The Verona Area Chamber of Commerce took over the festival last November, two years after decid-ing against that move when the Verona Community Betterment group folded. Brava Enterprises had handled the festival’s organization the last two years.
New leadership for Hometown Days (again)
Chamber took over in late 2013, keeps ‘status quo’ for 2014 festival
‘There’s a template in place that’s been followed for years and years’
VACC director Karl Curtis