Ex-Fairview councilor leads the campaign

After hearing Fairview’s city council might choose to cancel this year’s Chili on the Green festival, citizens have organized a group determined to save the town’s signature event.

Supporters of the festival are being encouraged to write letters to the city in order to show Fairview Mayor Mike Weatherby and city council members that the event is worth the financial burden.

“I hope to persuade the Fairview City Council that the festival is more than a budgetary line item, that the cost does not outweigh the benefits to the community,” said former Fairview Councilman Brian Cooper, who started the campaign with a “Save Fairview Chili Festival” Facebook group.

The possibility of canceling the event was discussed during a work session Wednesday, Jan. 16. Council members questioned the feasibility of holding a festival, which cost $20,000 in 2010, given Fairview’s severe budget restrictions.

“When the budget is so tight, I don’t know why we would budget $20,000 for a party,” Councilor Steve Prom said during Wednesday’s work session.

However, Cooper, who was on Fairview’s council in 2012, believes the city could afford to hold the festival but may wish to spend available funds elsewhere in the community.

“I was a Fairview city councilor 18 days ago,” he said. “I assure you, they do have the funds to support the festival. They may, however, wish to use those funds on different projects and must decide where those tax dollars best serve the community.

“It’s my opinion that community festivals like the Chili on the Green are worth the expense because the benefits are so many and so broad across the city and region.”

Currently, there is $5,000 that could be spent on the chili festival pending a vote by the council, Weatherby said. But before any decisions are made, the mayor asked Councilor Tamie Arnold and Council President Lisa Barton Mullins to evaluate the city’s options and report their findings at the council meeting Wednesday, Feb. 6.

“Having an event that tells the world about Fairview and invites them in to our home is important,” Weatherby said. “However, I do understand the money issue. My wish is that out of this will come some kind of event, and that’s the purpose of the special group.”

Cooper said community members plan to speak at the February council meeting.

They’ll likely address the council’s idea of replacing the chili festival with National Night Out, a neighborhood drug and crime prevention event held in many communities throughout the country.

Fairview last held National Night Out in 2011, when the city, again, faced financial shortcomings and decided to replace the chili festival with a cheaper event.

The council discussed combining elements of both events, but Cooper said National Night Out wouldn’t offer the same community benefits.

“National Night Out is not a festival,” Cooper said. “It is a community police awareness event. While National Night Out has its own benefits for the immediate community, it is a scheduled event in every city and does not have the economic, social or community benefits of a festival.”

Weatherby said that in less than a week, he’s received roughly 60 letters from individuals who want to see the festival held again this year.

“From the emails, you can see there are people who care and how popular it is,” Weatherby said.

Cooper hopes the activism will help keep the city from losing part of its identity.

“The community benefits that festivals bring are far beyond simple spreadsheets,” he said. “They indirectly boost community livability, tourism, economic development, public safety, city pride and even property values, to name a few.

“The Chili on the Green festival was doing exactly as it was intended. It brings the community together to share good food, good music and good shopping.”

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