STEVE HENSCHEL/Niagara This Week
The Welland Rose Festival board met to respond to a funding shortfall, specifically examining a motion to shutter the over half century old Welland tradition in 2013. The discussion came after the city, in response to a $100,000 grant request, allotted the festival $52,000 in permissive grants, bringing funding in line with last year’s amount. That, combined with a total of $53,000 in expected provincial grants that were not obtained this year, has left the 2013 festival cash strapped.
“The Welland Rose Festival may not occur this year,” said council liaison to the festival board Mike Petrachenko, adding, “they don’t have the funding they had last year.”
During Monday’s board meeting a motion was on the table to scrap the festival, however, after extensive debate, the board opted to wait on a last-minute plea from Petrachenko to council on Tuesday night for a funding bump. Pending the outcome the board attached a disclaimer to revisit the issue next Wednesday night during an emergency meeting.
“Had it not been for Mike Petrachenko it (closing the festival) would have been done already,” said festival president Jeff Ward.
As council prepared to debate a motion to advance the festival $10,000 of its already approved grant money Petrachenko made a plea to council for further funding, noting the festival’s dire straights. He explained the festival didn’t land a $43,000 Celebrate Ontario grant, $10,000 from Veterans Affairs and has seen a decline in business sponsorship.
“The community support dollars are down,” said Petrachenko.
Councillor Paul Grenier noted when the festival first approached the city the amount actually needed was in the $56,000 range and expressed displeasure with the festival’s return request, especially in light of a possible closure of the festival.
“Come to us with a commitment,” said Grenier, who pointed to a tough budget year.
“Everyone has to take a hit and help make our budget affordable,” said Grenier, who was joined in his concerns by other councillors.
Councillor Mary Ann Grimaldi did express fears a reconsideration of the Rose Festival may see other permissive grant recipients submitting similar pleas for help.
Before an amendment could be made to provide further funding the motion was referred back to the city’s Budget Review Committee by its chair Coun. Dan Fortier. Ward noted without the advance, and any further funding yet slated, the festival board will vote on a motion to close the festival next Wednesday.
“We can’t even secure any bands,” said Ward, adding, “we’ve got no funds.”
“The city of Welland doesn’t appreciate the tradition,” he said, noting it is an unfortunate circumstance that provincial funding dried up.
During Monday night’s board debate it was suggested the festival could trim certain events such as the parade.
“Everything leads to the parade,” said Ward, who wants to see the festival run as a whole package.
Petrachenko noted much of the city’s funding is for the parade and he added it’s important the annual tradition remain a quality act.
“The Rose Festival Parade, that’s Welland,” said Petrachenko.