Not-for-profit group workers should not pay to fundraise at Country Fest

To the Expositor:

Regarding the letter to the editor from Craig and Kelly Timmermans of April 27 on page 5 of The Manitoulin Expositor, (Country Fest organizers take issue with Northeast Town mayor’s comment), I would first like to thank the mayor and the two councillors who are looking out for all the taxpayers of NEMI in expressing their views on what the town is giving the Country Fest organizers—who are receiving so much from the municipality—and yet the profits from the beer tent are leaving the community.

So we get free advertising? Big deal!

The Little Current Lions Club and the Legion give back to groups in town from the profits they realize.

When 100.7 FM The Island holds music events in other communities, are groups from NEMI invited to participate and receive part of the profit? I don’t think so.

I note that they say they have implemented a three-year deal. When was this three-year agreement implemented? According to Ms. Timmermans’ letter to council, the Legion worked with the Little Current Lions Club in 2008 and 2009. That’s not three years.

In fact, in 2009 they had made the agreement with the Mindemoya Curling Club and only after some controversy did the Lions Club and Legion get to operate the beer tent with them.

They are quick to point out the Little Current Curling Club has it this year, but fail to report who they would be working with. But it would come as no surprise that it is the Mindemoya Curling Club again, as that would be their three years. Possibly the mayor knew more than Ms. Timmermans gave him credit for?

This doesn’t surprise me as I was told by a lady from Mindemoya while in line to get into Country Fest last year that the beer tent was topic of conversation—the high cost of cheap beer and the fact that outside groups were getting the profit—that they had been promised they would be doing it again next year. Funny thing, though, no one ever mentioned the Mindemoya Lions Club. Is that an added group, being as some of the workers belong to both?

In case you wonder what all the fuss is over the beer tent, well it’s big bucks for those who operate it, especially the organizers of Country Fest, as they get so much from each bottle of beer sold, but the work is done by the groups who operate it and they then divide the profit after expenses.

They mention FedNor and a survey and its results, but did not reveal all the monies they have received from funding agencies like the $75,000 from Celebrate Ontario in 2009 to assist with this event. They cite that nine jobs were created, but do not explain who got these jobs, when in fact they keep asking for volunteers!

Oh yes, the fireworks that they held two years ago were really supposed to take place on July 1, along with the entertainment that they got money to bring in, but the fireworks were never held to the disappointment of those in attendance.

I sat at a council meeting when the Timmermans approached council wanting a five year contract. They felt that they needed a five year contract in order to plan ahead and they also said that by that time Country Fest should be paying for itself.

The council of the day agreed to a five year contract, but stated that not-for-profit groups from NEMI would be allowed to fundraise at Low Island during this event at no charge.

However, the organizers have got around this by a requirement that all groups participating in fundraising must purchase tickets for their volunteers to work. Even at half price, they are still paying a premium for each worker. How can figure skating and minor hockey or any other not-for-profit group make any money and why is our council allowing them to do this?

The public beach at Low Island is to be accessible to the public. Ever try to access this with your children or grandchildren during the event? The parking spots for the beach are filled either with vehicles of those attending or workers at this event. Allowing vehicles to park on both sides of the road leading to Low Island is also dangerous.

In their advertising, they have mentioned groups that would benefit from this event, but if they are not making any money, then one can only assume that these groups did not receive anything. Is that not false advertising?

They mention the $25,000 sound system. They fail to mention that when approaching council, they assured the town it would not cost the taxpayers anything. Needless to say, the fundraiser they held did not make enough money therefore the town was required to pay the $5,000 from taxpayers coffers plus, the Little Current Lions Club also assisted.

Figure skating and minor hockey were also asked to assist, but as the then-existing system had been purchased by the figure skating club and was meeting their needs, they didn’t feel they should have to pay for another system. Don’t blame them.

If the benefits of this weekend are supposed to be so great for the Island, and especially NEMI, then why not move it around the Island and share the wealth that way, rather than having outside groups come in and walk away with money at the expense of the NEMI taxpayer? Would they really get the red carpet treatment with everything free like they do now?

Oh, well this should be the end of their five-year agreement, so we will see what happens next year. Rumors have been circulating since it started that they plan to move it, but time will tell.

I do feel the town should be requesting a financial statement on this event in the future before giving permission for free use of Low Island. I also believe the agreement for the not-for-profit groups should be upheld. The names of the volunteers working for these groups should be provided to the organizers. Special admission tickets could be made with some form of identification of the volunteer on it and the gate keepers could ask for other forms of identification to make sure the right person is using his or her tickets. If they are only working one day, then require that the volunteer identification be turned in at the end of that day.

Linda Bowerman
A taxpayer of NEMI and past volunteer of Country Fest