Plan emerges to save Mountain Festival parade
Miscommunication over fate of Mountain Festival parade leads to angst, followed by relief, as plan comes into focus
Monday's Sandy City Council meeting began on a tense note and ended with a call to action involving the continuation of the Sandy Mountain Festival Parade, which was on the brink of disappearing - in its current form - after this year.
The discussion Monday culminated with overwhelming agreement to continue the parade, but the future of the big event hinges on funding and a groundswell of dedicated volunteers.
The tension Monday stemmed from a series of miscommunications at a meeting in late May between representatives of the Sandy Mountain Festival, the city of Sandy and the Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce, who had gathered to discuss the future of the festival and parade.
The vantage points
FESTIVAL BOARD: At the time of the May meeting, the Festival Board was under the impression it had no choice but to cancel future parades because of its perceived notion that the Oregon Department of Transportation was discouraging the closure of Highway 26 to allow the parade. At the same time, the Festival Board was all too aware of the exhausting demands of pulling off the parade with a small number of volunteers.
CITY OF SANDY: The city, after the May meeting, arrived at the conclusion that it could no longer support the festival with $6,000 of annual sponsorship.
Of the city's $6,000 in sponsorship, $1,500 is allocated to costs associated with an ODOT permit allowing the closure of Highway 26.
Following the meeting, the city hatched an idea to reinvent the parade somewhere off Highway 26.
On its website June 14, the city stated the city and association would return to the roots of the festival with a smaller kids parade. The city asked readers to take a survey and offer ideas for the 40th festival in 2012.
The following day, the Sandy Mountain Festival Association posted on its Facebook page that 2011 would be the last year the association put on the parade, citing the cost of the ODOT permit and the scarcity of volunteers for the parade.
Emotions ran high online and in the community as these posts circulated last week.
Stan Pulliam, who grew up in Sandy and moved back almost three years ago to raise his family, created a 'Save the Sandy Mountain Festival Parade' Facebook community page Saturday.
'The parade is a symbol of the reason I wanted to return to Sandy,' Pulliam said.
By early Tuesday, morning, it reached 608 fans, including former Mayor Linda Malone.
The initial posts expressed outrage that the parade could end.
With anxious community members in attendance at Monday's City Council meeting hoping for answers surrounding the apparent demise of the parade, Festival President Vicky Mills and City Manager Scott Lazenby eased the tension by quickly coming to a conclusion that miscommunications had taken place.
The outcome of the discussion at the council meeting produced marching orders for the mobilization of volunteers.
'Clearly the community wants the parade,' Mayor Bill King said. 'If more people are active and help with fundraising, I don't see why it can't continue.'
Mills said 'greater community involvement would be great.'
Though the 'Save the Sandy Mountain Festival Parade' Facebook page quickly garnered more than 600 fans, Mills had heard from only two potential volunteers by Monday night.
Mills said the association asks for volunteers each year, sending out three press releases, posting on its website and using social media.
She explained both on Facebook and at the council meeting that the association loves doing the parade, but it's a huge undertaking for a committee of a dozen people.
The meeting underscored the necessity of community involvement in saving the parade, and by the end, eight more volunteers signed up with Mills.
During the meeting, rumors surfaced that ODOT and the city wanted to close down the parade due to increased traffic and costs, but it was clear neither wants the parade to end.
An ODOT district manager, Larry Olson, said in a statement Monday he had just signed the permit for this year's parade and trusted the Sandy parade would be enjoyed by the community as it has in the previous years and as it will in the years to come.
Don Hamilton, ODOT spokesman, said nothing had changed with the annual permit except a cost the city has to bear in sending letters to annual permit holders who carry truckloads up to 14 feet wide.
Those permit holders have to be informed when Highway 26 is closed or restricted during the time of a permit, and the letters are sent through the Motor Carrier Transportation Division.
This cost is estimated at $1,500 and became effective for this year's parade, after last year's fee was waived because it was announced so close to the parade date.
Help on the way?
Susan Cook was among those who spoke before the City Council. She and others agreed the $1,500 was 'a piece of cake' for the community to raise in addition to sponsorships to relieve the city of its $6,000 festival costs.
Toward the end of the discussion, Mayor King reminded everyone that until there's organization with fundraising and more volunteer assistance, future parades are at risk.
The city's survey will remain online as a forum for festival ideas. As of Monday, Lazenby said there were 32 responses.
Pulliam, the creator of 'Save the Sandy Mountain Festival Parade' Facebook page, asked what the memories of the parade were worth to Sandy citizens and described how much he looked forward to his 10-month-old daughter's first parade.
He envisioned her as a little girl wearing tap shoes in the parade and later participating with her T-ball team.
Sentiments about the parade being a large reunion and community builder abounded. Meeting attendees described family reunions and vacations being planned around the festival and its parade.
Councilor Dave Beitler said parade logistics were a huge elephant in the room while Councilor Jeremy Pietzold said, 'I want the parade just as much as you do, but we (the city) just don't have the money.'
Former mayor Malone said she felt the Facebook page posts contained inaccuracies and misconceptions. This was echoed by Pulliam. The group discussed communication between parties planning the festival and bridging gaps to enhance the festival and parade.
Both were pleased with the outcome of the meeting.
'This is what happens when you get involved as a community member, whether on Facebook or showing up at a council meeting,' Pulliam said after the meeting.
He planned to transition the Facebook page into a forum for ideas, volunteer recruitment and a place to share festival memories.
'It's a really positive outcome,' Malone said of the meeting.
Pulliam posted on the 'Save the Sandy Mountain Festival Parade' page last night.
'Get out and volunteer, contribute and get involved with the Sandy Mountain Festival Association to ensure the tradition continues for years to come,' he wrote.
Mills announced the association would hold a volunteer interest meeting for a parade committee at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 29, at Sandy City Shops (across the street from Sandy Cinema). Mills emphasized volunteers should at least be in their teens.
'We're really glad,' she said.
The Sandy Mountain Festival parade has existed since 1979. The festival began in 1972.