Yet Another Cancellation: Paterson's Autumnfest a No-Go
Wednesday, September 26, 2012 • 3:10pm
[Editor's note: After this story was published, city officials acknowledged they had provided some inaccurate information. Here's a link to a new story with what officials say are accurate financial numbers about the cancelled event.]
PATERSON, NJ – Unable to raise enough money in private contributions to cover the cost, the city has scrapped its plans for a three-day “Autumnfest” over Columbus Day weekend.
Mayor Jeffrey Jones had proposed the October event as a substitute for the annual Great Falls Festival, which also was canceled because of financial constraints. The Great Falls Festival was one of a series of events that city officials said they had to eliminate – including a Mother’s Day Breakfast and a Memorial Day Kickoff Celebration – because the state would not allow them to use taxpayers’ money for them.
Jones said the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs had agreed to let the city use some money for the Autumnfest, largely because it involved the national park at the Great Falls. But the bulk of the money had to come from private donations.
During the past month, officials at the city’s Urban Enterprise Zone were able to generate committments for about $48,000 in contributions. But the cost of police alone would have been $100,000 for the three-day event, Jones said, and on top of that would have been public works, fire department and emergency management expenses.
“It’s frustrating,’’ said Jones. “Our staff put a lot of time into this. They called and they recalled.’’
Jamie Dykes, the Greater Paterson Chamber of Commerce executive director, had served as chairman of the Celebrate Paterson, Inc. committee that worked on the festival. Dykes said he thought the city could have raised more money in the coming weeks for the event, but there would not have been enough time to get everything in place.
“You need a certain lead time to market something like this to make it a success,’’ said Dykes. “We didn’t want to run into a time crunch.’’
“At some point in time you’ve got to know when to say no,’’ said Jones.
The City Council had been scheduled to approve the various permits needed for the festival at its meeting on Tuesday night. That resolution was dropped from the agenda.
City Council Finance Chairman Kenneth Morris said he was not surprised the fund-raising efforts fell short.
“Most folks aren’t going to write a check for this mayor because they don’t have any confidence in him,’’ said Morris.
The mayor said he remains committed to finding ways to stage city events at the Great Falls, including an Autumnfest in October 2013.
“Right now, we’re doing an analysis of past events to understand what the city can do with this attraction,’’ he said. “How do we turn the national park into a real marquis for Paterson?’’