4Fayetteville needs the Dogwood Festival.
Unfortunately, it has fallen victim to a community that lacks proactive municipal leadership and embraces an apathetic philosophy that sees little value in community involvement or commitment. How does a successful 42-year-old community-wide family festival that attracts over 300,000 attendees over a two-and-a-half-day weekend, go from being recognized as North Carolina’s most outstanding, award-winning outdoor festival, to a debt-ridden shadow of its previous self with its future hanging in the balance?
Well, it's not that difficult when municipal leadership ignores the need to preserve Fayetteville traditions that once celebrated, showcased, and defined the Fayetteville community, its citizens, art, and culture.
My involvement with the Dogwood Festival goes back to the Sunday on the Square days of the early eighties, and the Cow Chip Bingo fundraisers of the nineties. This was a time when elected officials from Fayetteville and Cumberland County joined prominent residents, business leaders, the Chamber of Commerce, and civic organizations like the Kiwanis Clubs and came together for what was recognized as the grandest social event of the year.
This was a time when it was an honor to be asked to serve on the Dogwood Festival Committee, and a privilege to be working as a Festival volunteer. Now, the future of the Dogwood Festival is in jeopardy.
Fayetteville city officials generously and needlessly wasted $20,000 of taxpayers' money on an out-of-state consulting company to find out what’s ailing the Dogwood Festival and to make recommendations on how their situation can be remedied to again produce a successful fun family festival. Well, in the future, the City (and County) may want to consider another solution when faced with a perplexing problem or they are in search of advice.
Of course, this recommendation only works BEFORE spending thousands of dollars on out-of-town consultants who are unfamiliar with our unique community. When faced with a difficult decision or complex problem Fayetteville’s elected officials need to treat themselves to breakfast at JK’s Deli, MaryBills Café, Fireside, Zorba’s, or Lindy’s restaurants, and while enjoying their breakfast they should engage in a conversation with local Fayetteville patrons and hear what they have to say about important community issues. Ask them for their ideas and insights.
Without a doubt, their input and insights would be far more accurate and honest than any outside consulting source. And it this information would be FREE! In the case of the Dogwood Festival, Fayetteville residents would gladly provide honest, valid information and common-sense solutions and recommendations on how to rejuvenate and operate the festival. This information would be much more credible than any of the high-priced, out-of-town consultants who only provide costly generic boilerplate propositions. Many residents suspect that elected officials hire consultants as a convenient way to shed their responsibilities, hide their ignorance of complex issues, and “pass the buck” to avoid making tough decisions they don’t want to take responsibility for.
Hiring consultants is the perfect vehicle for allowing them to skirt their sworn oath responsibilities.
Every consultant has a “strategic plan” in their bag. Fayetteville’s City Hall houses dozens upon dozens of “strategic plans” that have been hatched over the past three decades. I can pretty much assure you each of them heralds the same content as pertains to the mission of
1. Defining who we are as a community.
2. Identify the community assets.
3. Establishing our BRAND, and
4. Market and promote the community to enhance our image and BRAND.
Sound familiar?
Well, I’ll conclude this message with a reminder to the Mayor and members of the Fayetteville City Council. We have already defined our community and accomplished many of the goals of these strategic plans over a decade ago, and we did it with only six words: Fayetteville and Cumberland County is a community of History, Heroes, and a Hometown Feeling. That’s a pretty definitive statement and I challenge any outside consultant to do better at any price.
Kudos to Board Members Jackie Tuckey and Andrew Porter for their hard work and dedication to the Dogwood Festival which has lacked a full-time paid executive director for nearly a year. They know how important this event is to promoting the community, and especially Fayetteville’s Downtown District.
Note to consultants: Moving the Dogwood Festival out of Downtown Fayetteville is a non-starter. This year, the event is scheduled for the weekend of April 26th – 28th. We will be there, and we hope to see you there celebrating our History, Heroes, and Hometown Feeling!
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