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The ebb and flow of fundraising events in Pickens County

By Dan Pool
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    Saturday night’s chamber of commerce Auto-Raffle at Rocco’s was unusual and not just because I happened to win one of the cash prizes.
    It is an anomaly in this county for an event to run into trouble because it proved to be too popular, too well attended.
    The chamber of commerce has held an annual auto-raffle for years. It used to be called  “the truck giveaway” because the grand prize was always a truck.
    It had been at the chamber building every year before and was well-enough attended; good crowds but nothing that swamped the hosts like Saturday. After moving it to Rocco’s this year, it seemed everyone wanted to attend.
    Right now two different groups of people reading this are gnashing their teeth.
    Those who had many-hour waits for food and nowhere to sit due to the unexpected doubling of attendance are fuming again. The organizers of most every other event held in Pickens County are also mumbling words we can’t print.
    Overcrowded? Not enough food? Not enough space? Too many people trying to get in? It’s as rare as winter parkas at the July 4th  to hear these complaints about a local event.
    The reverse is the norm: Event organizers left befuddled and broke because more people didn’t show up.
    The bluegrass festival this spring was the most recent victim of a fickle public. Organizers from veteran groups put in a lot of time and effort and money only to see very few local bodies show up. Music festivals have particularly borne the indifference of the area population. Concert events appear to do well in other locales but for some unknown (at least to us) reason, don’t catch more than scintilla of public interest here.
    And it’s not just a festival setting, consider that the sprawling empty space beside the courthouse was briefly the Sidebar, where owners poured in a fortune to establish it as a blues club. Didn’t work. The chamber has in several years tried to host some kind of concert in connection with the Marble Festival. Didn’t work a decade ago with country music and didn’t work more recently with bluegrass.
    Visual arts have found an equally tough row to hoe attracting support. Most tellingly, Sharptop Arts Association shut down after several appeals for support went unheeded. And this followed the demise of ArtFest which never gained a foothold despite showing a lot of potential in the second and final year. The Marble Festival has also dropped the fine arts portion of the weekend as it  produced mainly shrugs from festival goers.
    Outside the arts, the recent public safety day in Nelson  drew mostly presenters, not visitors.     The roster of events that don’t get off the ground could go on and on. And our aim in presenting the failures is to be sure other groups out there are aware how tough the environment can be. Too many times we have heard stories like one from  a principal a few years back who told us they were literally going to have to hold a fundraiser to cover losses from an earlier fundraising disaster.
    We hope someone proves us wrong by putting on a successful music or art festival here. We’d like to see it. We’d support it. But we feel it’s our duty to let various fundraising chairmen know the difficulty in getting a new event up and running.
    The chamber event Saturday and JeepFest, not to mention the Dairy Queen reopening, all demonstrate people here will come out but only if the event catches their interest. Anyone who thinks they can hire a couple of good bands and pack a field had probably better do some refiguring.
    Secondly, we’d encourage the public to be a little more willing to make time for events. Part of going to the bluegrass festival earlier this year was because you liked the music, but part (the biggest part) should have been to support the local veterans raising money for their needs.
    Next time you see a group putting a lot of work into a festival, concert or other fundraiser, show them a little support. It’s what a community is all about.