Organizers of the Stockton Asparagus Festival permanently canceled the annual event according to The Modesto Bee on Tuesday. The cancelation came in the wake of decreased attendance, increasing costs of reserve police officers and other city services for the event, and Stockton's plight as the first major city ever to declare bankruptcy. While it is understandable that costs were increasing and that this was burdensome to the City of Stockton, it is this commentator's position that other options should have been explored before just canceling the event. When people are entrusted with the responsibility of organizing an event as significant as the Stockton Asparagus Festival, there is an unwritten but undeniable expectation that those so entrusted will do anything and everything possible to protect the event and make the necessary changes and adaptations to keep the event going. It is this commentator's position that the organizers failed to live up to this expectation and canceled the event prematurely. Following are some of the options that the organizers should have considered before deciding the fate of the Stockton Asparagus Festival:
1) Appointing a citizen panel to study the event and come up with suggestions for keeping the event afloat. It is amazing how many good ideas are generated by citizen panels and how much of a role such panels can play in the final implementation of changes.
2) Soliciting corporate sponsors for the event who would reimburse the City of Stockton for the costs of the event, including the police officers, street cleaners, extra work crews, etc.. Many corporations are glad to absorb the costs of such events in return for publicity at the events that they are sponsoring. They get good publicity and a tax write off at the same time. It is a good deal for corporate sponsors and most corporations are glad to do their part and help out local communities.
3) Asking volunteer organizations such as The Guardian Angels, to help provide security at the Festival and help defray the costs of security at the event.
4) Organized fund raisers that would raise money all year long for the festival. The fund raisers could have raised money in a variety of venues through the Chamber of Commerce, including candy auctions, weekend community flea markets, coupon book sales, etc.. The fund raisers would have had the added benefit of engendering community spirit and citizen involvement. Even smaller, privately owned businesses would have been able to become involved by offering discounts in the coupon books. It would have been a "win win" situation for everyone involved.
It is this commentator's hope that the officials of the Stockton Asparagus Festival will consider these and other options and possibly change their minds after realizing that with a little imagination and ingenuity the event can be reinstated, even in a bankrupt city.