PICTOU – One of county’s oldest festivals is in desperate need of two essential elements – money and volunteers.
The Town of Pictou called a public meeting Thursday after realizing that the current Lobster Carnival committee needed help planning this year’s festival with the hope that local community groups would sponsor a carnival event or have a representative volunteer on the carnival committee.
“The town is not the carnival committee,” said Pictou Mayor Joe Hawes, who chaired the meeting that was attended by about 50 people. “The Lobster Carnival is about promoting and celebrating our community. The event truly takes several dedicated volunteers and several people to make it a success.”
Brian Burton, 2012 chair of the Pictou Lobster Carnival, said the committee’s current focus is fundraising since it has an $18,000 deficit that needs to be paid off from last year’s carnival.
He said a major fundraising event at the deCoste Entertainment Centre last year failed to make any money for the committee and smaller events that were planned throughout the winter fell through.
The committee’s total deficit is actually $28,000, but carnival organizers are expecting to receive a $10,000 HST cheque in the near future that will cut it back to $18,000.
Hawes said the town also has $5,000 waiting to give the carnival as a community grant for last year’s event, but the committee won’t receive that until it hands in a year-end financial statement to the town.
“We budget for $14,000 per year related to the carnival,” said Hawes.
“Seventy-five hundred of that is provided directly to organizers, we contract out $3,500 for litter pickup and we pay the RCMP overtime of about $3,000.”
Due to new provincial guidelines introduced in 2011, each municipality will have to pay for a value-for-money audit every four years. During such audits, the attorney general will make sure that municipal money is being spent correctly which is why any group receiving town or county funds must present a financial statement at the end of their fiscal year.
Carnival treasurer Jennifer Buchanan said financial statements have been done by the carnival committee in the past, but the town wanted a more detailed statement this year.
“The town requested that we have a different statement and it has offered to help us with that,” she said. “It cost about $125,000 to run a carnival and we are in the red this year. That is part of the problem.”
Burton said the carnival committee agreed to scale back on some events this year, such as entertainment, but he admitted very little else is planned so far for the July 5-7 event.
He said people are needed to organize the opening ceremonies, parade, fishing events, boat races, kids parade and beer garden to name a few.
As of now, he said, there are less than 10 people on the committee and it only has one cash sponsor, Sobeys, which has committed $9,250 to the event in addition to $6,000 in-kind donations. East Coast FM is also on board with its sponsorship, but it offers in-kind donations, not cash.
Representatives from local community groups said they would be willing to pitch in their time, but they expressed concerns about funding last year’s deficit and this year’s event.
Luke Young, chair of Pictou Business and Marketing, said his group has sponsored the fireworks display in he past, but he expressed concern when he found out during the meeting that is one of the outstanding bills from last year.
“If Pictou Business supports the fireworks, are they going to come if last year’s bill wasn’t paid?,” asked Luke Young, chair of Pictou Business and Marketing Society. “Do you need to fundraise first to pay for last year and then next year?”
Former town councilor Shawn McNamara agreed saying he would help out volunteering in the beer garden, but he wanted a clear picture of how things looked before he became involved with the committee.
“I need to know what bills need to be paid before it gets off the ground,” he said. “That is what is important here. If I am jumping into the beer garden, I don’t want to pay for the beer garden.”
He added that the carnival committee should have come to the public sooner looking for help rather than waiting until it was seven weeks before the actual event takes place.
“The disappointing thing is that you could have had these people here four months ago,” he said. “My God, no matter how many brains you have, an army is not going to raise $125,000. We need to get a committee formed to make up our mind.”
Pictou resident Gerard MacIssac agreed the carnival committee needs to scale back its event this year, call on local residents to step up and volunteer and develop a five-year-business plan that would help it in the long run.
Buchanan said one of the biggest cost savers would be having the carnival events all take place in the same area so that the committee wouldn’t have to rent two sound systems and pay for two stages at opposite ends of the town.
Michelle Davey, manager of the Northumberland Fisheries Museum, suggested that carnival go back to the traditional ways with smaller homegrown events that celebrate the lobster fishing industry.
“We have to remember what the carnival is for,” she said. “I would hate for fishing related events to be cut out of the itinerary.”
The carnival committee agreed to hold another meeting this coming Thursday with the hope that people will come and volunteer for the vacant spots left on the board or committees. Its annual general meeting is scheduled for May 23 and both meetings take place at 7 p.m. at the Maritime Odd Fellows Home.