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St. Charles Fourth of July Events Scaled Back for 2011

Residents can take a history quiz online and try to win $10,000 for next year's Riverfest event.

Riverfest, the popular Fourth of July celebration that has become a tradition in St. Charles, will be just one day this year—July 4—instead of the three-day event it has been in the past.

Riverfest-goers are being urged to bring lawn chairs and sunscreen with them to Frontier Park as budget cuts have stolen the seating that used to be available at the event as well as the tent that provided refuge from the sun and housed some of the entertainment.

“In the past, we rented a large tent for people to sit under, and we had bands (performing) under that tent throughout the day,” said Karen Godfrey, special events manager for the (CVB), which is planning Riverfest.

“All of our entertainment this year will be on the ,” she said. “There will not be a tent. If somebody wants to come out and listen to the music all day, I suggest they bring some umbrellas and lots of sunscreen—and lawn chairs and blankets, because we will not have chairs in the park as we have in the past. Our budget just does not allow it.”

Officials hope people clicking on a website and answering a few questions about American history will help defray the cost of this year’s celebration or help finance next year’s event.

Liberty Mutual Insurance is awarding $10,000 grants to support the official July Fourth celebrations of 10 cities and towns that win its “Bring Back the 4th™" online contest. Residents can go to www.bringbackthe4th.com until June 14 and take the eight-question history quiz to vote for their town. The municipalities with the most clicks win the grants. 

If St. Charles is a winner, the money could be used to help pay for this year’s Riverfest or to help pay for next year’s event, Godfrey said.

The same financial crunch hitting many American municipalities forced officials to shrink this year’s celebration to one day. In the past, Riverfest spanned three days including two full days of entertainment followed by fireworks displays over the Missouri River.

Initially, because of budgetary constraints, the city council decided to pay for just one night of fireworks for Riverfest in 2010 but later voted to fund fireworks for a second night, Godfrey said.

But when the council voted last year to cut Riverfest 2011’s budget from $110,000 to $80,000, eight members of the committee resigned, leaving only two members to work on this year’s event, Godfrey said. The committee normally has 13 members but three vacancies had not been filled last year, she added.

The budget cuts mean that although the carnival that’s been part of the celebration will go on for four days, the musical entertainment and family activities will be cut to one day, Godfrey said.

“And the pole vault explosion will not be happening this year,” she said.  The competition attracted elite athletes from around the country, she said. “We could not afford the expense this year, so that was something we had to eliminate,” she added.

The fireworks cost is higher for St. Charles than for other municipalities because the fireworks here are ignited from a barge in the Missouri River. The fireworks display will start at 9:20 p.m. July 4.

“Barge rental and insurance make it more expensive,” Godfrey said.

Former Ward 2 city councilman Larry Muench, who served for several years as the council’s liaison on the committee, said the members who quit felt they just couldn’t do a good job with the budget reduction. Tent rental alone was $6,000 and entertainment costs can top $30,000, he said.

“The committee was a great committee,” Muench said. “They just couldn’t do it with no money to work with. When you don’t have any money, what are you going to do? Fireworks alone are $40,000. Even if you had 35 or $40,000 more, you can’t do that much for a festival. I’m telling you, the money just doesn’t go that far.”

So, with most of the committee that used to plan and carry out Riverfest gone, the CVB took over planning the event. In place of the committee members who used to oversee the vendors, make sure the bands got to the stage at the proper times and tend to last minute details, a team of volunteers from will fill in this year.

“We’ll have 13 people out there in the park doing different tasks,” Godfrey said.

New Features Honor Military

A new feature this year will be a photo display of local active duty military personnel in the Katy Depot from noon to 6 p.m. The display is being organized by Main Street Church and the CVB. Those wanting to submit military photos of a St. Charles resident can send them to Godfrey at 230 South Main Street, St. Charles, MO 63301. To protect the identities of the military personnel, names will not be displayed.

Citizens Helping American Military Personnel (CHAMP) will be collecting items to put in care packages to be sent to military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. Especially needed are white socks, sunscreen and baby wipes, Barbara Baum, the St. Charles resident who started the organization in 2003, said. Other items used in the care packages include magazines, paperback books, DVDs, candy, snacks lip balm, game books, beef jerky, popcorn and personal-sized toiletries, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and deodorant.

If you have friends or loved ones serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, you can request that CHAMP send a care package by emailing Baum at barbhyg@att.net or justineriggs@yahoo.com. Include a contact name and phone number as well as the recipient’s military address.

Parade Will Include Veterans, Businesses

The St. Charles Jaycees, who organize the annual parade, are still accepting applications for floats and marchers.

Groups, schools, businesses, organizations and scout units wanting to participate in the parade can download an application at historicstcharles.com or www.stcharlescitymo.gov, fill it out and send it in by June 24, Godfrey said. The fee for political groups is $75. It is $50 for businesses and other for-profit groups.  Nonprofits can march free.

About 35 entries are already registered with more expected to come, Adam McCarthy, chairman of the board of the St. Charles Jaycees, said.

“The last month is when people really start to throw them on,” he said.

McCarthy said he’s not concerned that the one-day format will impact parade participation. “My people always come out on the Fourth,” he said.

Typically between 50 and 80 units participate with a higher number in an election year because of the political candidates who participate, McCarthy said. 
McCarthy said he encourages veterans to join the parade.

“We try to get as many veterans as possible in the parade—especially World War II vets,” he said.  “The vets always are at the front of the parade,” he added
Vets are asked to meet at at 9:30 a.m.

“We do it that way because the parking is easier so the veterans don’t have to walk as far,” he said. “We put them on a float, and we drive them over to the park and they go first.”

He encouraged people to join the parade or turn out on the Fourth to watch it. “It’s family friendly,” he said. “It’s a good time.”

Even with a pinched budget, Riverfest organizers are hopeful as many people as in the past will turn out for the full day of entertainment and evening fireworks on the Fourth.

“We just want everyone to come out and enjoy a family-friendly, old-fashioned Fourth of July,” Godfrey said.

todd luerding June 06, 2011 at 05:52 PM
No, thank you. The once-respected Riverfest has fallen. It was fun while it lasted.
Amber June 16, 2011 at 03:49 PM
This is really sad to read. I am from Southwest MO and have enjoyed coming to St. Charles in the past specifically for the Riverfest celebrations and have enjoyed sharing memories of our experiences at the Riverfest with friends and family over the years. I hope that the budget will recover so the Riverfest festivities can resume to normal or be even be better! Activities such as the Riverfest are such an important function for cities and for the good memories it creates for years to come.

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