Parade cancellation disappoints Gilbert - East Valley Tribune: News

Parade cancellation disappoints Gilbert

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Posted: Thursday, August 27, 2009 5:02 pm | Updated: 3:10 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The cancellation of this year's Gilbert Days Parade left community leaders and businesses surprised and disappointed Thursday.

The cancellation of this year's Gilbert Days Parade left community leaders and businesses surprised and disappointed Thursday.

The decision to scrap the parade after more than three decades of continuous operation came after organizers lost sponsorship and town financial support due to the tough economy.

Budget cuts claim Gilbert Days Parade

Longtime Gilbert booster Don Skousen, a former town judge and Gilbert councilman, said he doesn't fault the town for not ponying up the cash for police protection, waste removal and dust control, but "I wish they could just pull off a small parade, maybe not of the magnitude that it has been the past few years."

Small businesses along the parade route, especially newer ones, are disappointed about the loss of exposure the parade provided in years past as tens of thousands of Valley residents descended on them.

Jen Driesback, a manager at Liberty Market, a restaurant, wine and espresso bar, learned of the cancellationThursday afternoon.

"I can't believe that," she said. "That blows my mind."

Driesback, along with Liberty Market's co-owner, Kiersten Traina, was hoping parade-goers would create some buzz over the market's new breakfast menu and lunch items.

Owners of Bergie's Coffee Roast House, which is set back from Gilbert Road and is hard to see, bemoaned the loss of exposure more than the loss of revenue provided by the parade. Because the cafe and bean-roasting shop opened only six months ago, they were counting on gaining a lot of new customers after the parade.

"The biggest thing is we're all about people seeing that we've located out here," said co-owner Brian Bergeson. "We're losing the (parade's) visibility, and that's a real bummer because thousands of people come out."

The Gilbert Promotional Corp., organizers of the annual Gilbert Days festivities, was forced to eliminate the parade after sponsorships and town support dried up.

In a 5-2 vote Tuesday, Town Council members turned down the group's request to pick up the tab for town services. Later, in a separate 5-2 vote, members agreed to spend $20,000 to sponsor the festival's three-day rodeo. The rodeo is attended by as many as 5,000 spectators and is a key moneymaker for the nonprofit.

"It was a tough decision for everyone all around," said George Pettit, Gilbert town manager.

Gilbert Promotional Group leaders were not available for comment Thursday.

The two-hour parade, which features floats, local school marching bands and horses, and tens of thousands of spectators, starts in downtown Gilbert at Juniper Street and runs south along Gilbert Road before ending at Gilbert Town Square at Civic Center Drive.

The parade is part of the overall Gilbert Days festivities started in 1978 by a group of local businessmen and ranchers to keep alive the town's Old West heritage. Gilbert Days, which runs from Nov. 13-22 this year, features a range of activities and events including the rodeo and a Pony Express exhibition, in which participants recreate the rides of the famous mail-delivery service.

The parade vote came up for consideration on a night when the council was set to adopt a budget with a $4.5 million general fund deficit. The council eventually whittled that shortfall down to a $2.3 million, which will come from the town's contingency fund. It unanimously passed a $730 million budget for fiscal year 2009-10.

In the end, picking up the tab for the parade services and rodeo - which averages about $90,000 - was untenable, officials said.

"There was a lot of input and a lot of angst," said Councilman Steve Urie, who voted against sponsoring the rodeo as well as the parade. "I hate to see Gilbert Days Parade go away, but ... we're in tough times. Everybody's in tough times."

Urie said the Gilbert Promotional Corp. might need to seek professional promoters to continue sustaining itself.

He pointed to the Chandler Ostrich Festival as an example.

"The Chandler Chamber of Commerce decided it was going to give up on it after 10 years because it had become such a huge thing to them, consuming so much of their time," Urie said. "A promoter approached them and said, 'Hey, I'd love to run it and I'll make a deal with you.' In three years' time, they had a very profitable business venture."

Urie said such a thing might work for Gilbert Days.

"It can't be just a bunch of guys and gals who get together and have fun with horses and rope. It's got to have a serious economic side to it," he added.

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