Janesville52°

Officials cautious on July 4 event

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Kathleen Foody
July 9, 2009
— Janesville's Odd Fellows met Wednesday night to discuss their losses and consider the future of planning Fourth of July events.

One organizer reported Wednesday the group lost $13,000 due to low donations at the three-day celebration last weekend.


City council members were cautious about the idea that the city should take a greater role in the Fourth of July celebration if the Odd Fellows cannot continue.


Janesville is already dealing with a $1.8 million deficit, said council member Frank Perrotto.


"I think we could probably take the money (to host an event) and use it better," he said.


The celebration does not have a profitable track record for organizers, said council member Russ Steeber.


"Not to diminish what the Odd Fellows or Jaycees were trying to do, but that fireworks program and July Fourth event has always struggled," he said.


"I just don't know if the city would want to venture into that especially with so many other economic challenges facing us right now."


The city and its taxpayers support the weekend celebration by providing staff from the parks and police department, council president Bill Truman said.


"The city already does quite a bit when you start talking about those personnel," Truman said. "It's a good cost to us since the holiday is overtime pay."


None of the council members had estimates on how much the city paid in salary to employees working during the weekend and the city's finance office could not be reached late Wednesday.


Ultimately the council will have to evaluate what Janesville residents want to spend their tax dollars on, said council member Yuri Rashkin.


"It's a matter of priorities," he said. "If fireworks are important to the community, if a celebration is, then we need to be able to think outside the box."


Rashkin suggested combining with the city of Beloit to put on a show for the holiday.


Several council members said Freedom Fest, held the weekend before and run by the New Life Assembly of God church in Janesville, could draw people away.


But combining the events is unlikely, said Todd Pope, senior associate at the church. The church never intended to compete with the city and intentionally holds Freedom Fest the weekend before the Fourth, he said.


"There are some value difference between the two events, for example we won't have alcohol at our event," Pope said.


The church hosted "probably the largest crowd we've ever had" at this year's, but there is no count of exactly how many attended, Pope said.



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