Depot Days fails to raise the money of previous years

Raises concerns on funding Pure Michigan advertisements


STANDISH — After all the contributions were said and done, the Depot Days festival in Standish only brought in about $1,000 in profits, according to Arenac County Heritage Route Authority member JoAnn Swartz, far below the amount raised in previous years.

The Standish Historical Depot and the Heritage Route Authority only have roughly $6,000 in the bank to get through the next few months, Swartz said during the authority’s meeting Nov. 5. Depot Days has been a major fundraiser for the authority in years past, generating roughly $9,000 primarily through vouchers from the Saganing Eagles Landing Casino. This year the vouchers raised only $555.

Swartz said it costs approximately $2,000 a month to keep the depot open, and they are not expecting the annual contributions from local municipalities and other entities to come through until sometime between January and March.

“It’s not even enough to cover one month of expenses,” Swartz said.

Authority member Sue Stein said the entertainment, consisting of the bands Lemon Frog, Gunsmoke Express, Point Blank, and the Steve Dzrewicki Band, did not appear to bring in an appreciable number of people to the depot at Depot Days. Combined they cost a total of $1,025 to perform over the weekend.

Stein said Schmidt Amusements did agree to have rides set up for the 2013 Depot Days, but the festival may have its hours trimmed a bit to reduce costs: Stein proposed closing it at 6 p.m. Saturday instead of 8 p.m. like this year’s event. Sunday’s hours were not discussed during the meeting.

Swartz said the entertainment should be cut for next year’s Depot Days, though the authority did not make any final decisions on the matter.

Stein said the pie contest and the chili cook-off went well, and selling pie by the slice was “a hit.”

In light of the poor fundraising at Depot Days, the Heritage Route Authority also faced questions of how to help finance Arenac County’s portion of the Pure Michigan campaign.

Arenac County helps fund a $25,000 ad campaign for the heritage route, which features communities and sights along the US-23 corridor. Alcona, Alpena, Iosco and Presque Isle counties also contribute. The amount each county contributes is based on its overall population.

Arenac County had a population of 15,889 as of the 2010 census, meaning that if all five counties contribute, it would need to provide $4,250. If Presque Isle drops out, as is possible, Arenac would need to provide a total of $5,000.

For the 2012 campaign, Au Gres, the Au Gres Chamber of Commerce, the Arenac County Economic Development Corporation, and the Heritage Route Authority each contributed to the program. With dwindling funds in the bank needed to keep the Depot’s doors open, however, Swartz said they should go to other entities to see about helping out.

Au Gres mayor and authority member LaVern Dittenber said the organization should see if Standish could help provide some funding, since Au Gres provided $1,750 for 2012.

“They are a part of this,” Dittenber said. “So any amount they could contribute would be appreciated.”

Stein agreed with asking Standish for a contribution, as well as the Standish Chamber of Commerce. The city of Standish currently contributes by off-setting the depot's water bill.

Authority member Mina Stodolak also suggested asking the city of Omer if it could contribute something.

Au Gres City Manager Pat Killingbeck said the Heritage Route Authority needs to contribute something to the Pure Michigan campaign, even if it is not as much as it was previously — $1,500 — simply because its very purpose is promoting the county.

“The purpose of the authority is to promote the heritage route,” Killingbeck said. “If we can’t do that, then what’s the point?”

The authority agreed any effort to request a contribution from the county government itself would wait until after the new board of commissioners is seated in January.


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