St. Charles' Pride of the Fox Riverfest seems likely to return for show No. 31 in June with the Pride of the Fox LLC still running the festival, but not without a little power struggle Tuesday.
For 20 years, the festival was organized by the St. Charles Festival Committee, but for the past three years, the Pride of the Fox LLC had taken over.
That supposedly was going to end this year, as Pride of the Fox LLC decided to dissolve itself in September and its executive director, Julie Farris, resigned.
The resignation prompted an effort by St. Charles Mayor Donald DeWitte and resident Tom Anderson to reorganize the St. Charles Festival Committee. Late in December, Anderson and others contacted the city with a proposal that first came before the City Council on Jan. 7.
But by that time, Farris and her former agency caught wind of the effort to ensure the festival's return in 2013. Farris said she never really had wanted out, and she convinced the council to hear a Pride of the Fox LLC proposal.
On Tuesday, nine aldermen meeting as the City Council Government Operations Committee listened to presentations by both groups—presentations that took on an edge, as each group took credit for making the Pride of the Fox Riverfest a success.
Professional event organizer Joy Meierhans, who represented the St. Charles Festival Committee, pointed out that the committee had built up a $30,000 surplus during the 20 years it ran the festival. Meierhans said Pride of the Fox LLC had burned through that funding and ended with a $15,000 shortfall in the three years it ran Pride of the Fox.
Farris countered that Pride of the Fox LLC took the reins during a recession, which alone would have affected attendance at the event. Further pushing down attendance and the events finances, she said, were “torrential rains” during the group’s first two years of oversight.
She said the festival was successful in Pride of the Fox LLC’s third year, and she also pointed to the organization’s network of 150 volunteers organized under its direction of the festival.
St. Charles City Administrator Brian Townsend said the competing agencies' proposals were similar: Each sought a continuation of the city’s past level of support — $18,000 in cash and the equivalent of about $11,500, the latter representing a 50 percent discount in the cost of city for the annual festival.
In addition, Pride of the Fox LLC is asking for another $12,000 a year, in return for which the city would be promoted as the top sponsor. The St. Charles Festival Committee was asking for $15,000 in additional funding for the first year alone, Townsend said.
Ferris told aldermen she resigned in September because she believed the Downtown St. Charles Partnership was going to merge with Pride of the Fox LLC beginning in 2013. She said she was surprised when she later learned the Downtown St. Charles Partnership would not take leadership of the festival this year.
That’s also why she and the Pride of the Fox LLC members came forward with their own eleventh-hour proposal to reclaim leadership for the fest.
The Operations Committee voted 7-0 to recommend Pride of the Fox LLC as the festival’s organizing agency. The vote now goes before the full City Council.