By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
What had become Joplin’s signature festival, Boomtown Days, has been canceled for this year and will be re-evaluated, its organizers said Friday.
Boomtown Days was one of the events to be awarded a city grant for this year to help pay part of the costs of entertainment and advertising, but festival organizers notified the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau they will not use the grant. It amounted to $19,500. The festival was scheduled to be held June 13-15.
Patrick Tuttle, director of the CVB, said there were two factors in the cancellation. He said many of the people involved in putting on the event are involved in Joplin’s recovery from the 2011 tornado. The legal proceedings surrounding the theft of money from the festival account also has affected it.
The festival’s former finance chairwoman, Kim Lester, 54, 5848 Eland Road, pleaded guilty to the theft in September. She admitted to withdrawing $108,000 and putting back about $64,000 before it was noticed. She agreed to pay $40,000 in restitution as part of her plea.
A statement was issued Friday afternoon by the publicity chairwoman, Cameo Harrington, which said, “The event was not held last year due to ongoing legal issues stemming from the 2010 discovery of misappropriation of funds by a former festival committee member. These legal issues have since been resolved and full restitution was made to the festival. However, the committee feels this offers a unique opportunity to re-evaluate the event and find new ways to rebuild the festival into something bigger and better.”
In addition to Boomtown Days, another festival that was awarded a grant, Dogs in Downtown, also has been canceled. That event was to be held May 31-June 1 and would have received $5,000 toward costs.
Patrick Tuttle, the city’s CVB director, said two other organizations have asked for more money and formal proposals will be sought regarding those requests. The CVB board is to take up discussion about it at its next meeting, Tuttle said.
As a result of the Boomtown cancellation, Tuttle said he will hold a public forum in the future to get public opinion. “We will be asking local residents for input into what type of festival they would like to have,” Tuttle said, along with who would help stage the event. “Do we want to resurrect Boomtown Days or do something related to Route 66?”
The Route 66 International Festival will be held in Joplin on Aug. 1-3 this year. It will bring in arts, exhibitors and vendors all involving Route 66 nostalgia. That festival moves to a different city along Route 66 each year.
In the meantime, grant applications are available to organizations that will hold events next year in Joplin.
The CVB will accept proposals from those seeking financial assistance to hold events between Nov. 1, 2013, and Oct. 31, 2014.
Applications can be emailed by 5 p.m. Friday, May 31, to the CVB director, firstname.lastname@example.org; or delivered by mail or by hand by June 14 to the bureau at City Hall, 602 S. Main St.
The bureau annually allocates $100,000 to help pay the costs of holding recreational or entertainment activities that either attract people to stay in Joplin’s motels or bring publicity to the city. Event organizers can request up to $20,000.
Businesses as well as nonprofit organizations may apply. The grants are funded from proceeds of the city’s hotel and motel tax.
The advisory board of the CVB makes recommendations on which events are to be funded and how much they should receive. A public hearing is held each year, usually in August, before the City Council considers the board’s recommendations and makes final authorization.
Last year, the board received applications for more than $183,000 to help fund 11 events put on by 10 organizations.
Funding was awarded last year to a variety of events.
Athletic events included the Joplin Memorial Run, Joplin Outlaws baseball, the Joplin Disc Golf Club, the Rufus Racing Summer Roundup Triathlon, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Bike MS.
Arts events funded are PhotoSpiva and Spiva Center for the Arts ArtWorkers.
Festivals funded are Historic Murphysburg’s DickensFest and the MSSU homecoming celebration.
Rules and eligibility information, along with the grant forms, can be obtained on the CVB’s website at www.joplinmo.com.