As past president, former board member, and a continuing long-time volunteer of Harborfest, I would like to respond to Councilor Bill Sharkeyâ€™s comment in Tuesdayâ€™s article wherein he states “Harborfest is not going to support the city of Oswego, but we are asked to support them…”.
How quickly Mr. Sharkey forgets the grant that was written by then vice president John Scardella to secure funding for an electrical upgrade at East Park, together with a generator that the city has use of 51 weeks of the year.
Many hours went into securing the mutually benefiting funding, all done by Mr. Scardella as a representative of Harborfest.
Nor does Mr. Sharkey seem to remember the numerous phone calls I personally made to various government officials [with the knowledge and consent of city department officials] in an effort to secure additional help.
More specifically, additional police agency assistance for the city police department.
Harborfest has been named Top 100 Event by the American Bus Association several times in the past years, including 2010, and to the Top 10 list of “Largest, Biggest, Best Fireworks Displays in the United States” by www.fireworks.com in recent years as well.
Had it not been for the yearly festival, Oswego would not have been recognized as a destination to vacation, which ultimately brings in revenue for the city of Oswego.
Apparently Mr. Sharkey hasnâ€™t read the economic impact study completed by Cornell University that notes the estimated $23.5 million in direct demand for local goods and services brought to this area specifically attributed to the festival.
I know, no one likes to remember the phrase, “it takes money to make money”…and hosting a festival of this quality does cost money, not only for the festival, but for the city.
However, just because the city isnâ€™t directly receiving funding from Harborfest, it IS receiving money indirectly.
Mr. Sharkey states, “I will never fund another dollar for Harborfest when this city is looking at $100 million worth of debt.”
Rather than put the onus on Harborfest for the cityâ€™s overtime costs, I would offer that Mr. Sharkey investigate why those figures are so high.
Does the city really need to staff EMT/police support for each festival venue in addition to what Harborfest already provides in EMT/security personnel?
I also take offense to Mr. Sharkeyâ€™s assessment of Harborfest being “their party.”
Nowhere in Harborfestâ€™s mission statement is the festival referred to as a “party.”
In fact, the mission statement specifically states: To promote an increased public awareness of, and civic pride in, the unique history and geography as well as the varied cultural and recreational opportunities to be found in the City of Oswego and its waterfront, the County of Oswego, the Oswego River and the southeastern shore of Lake Ontario. This will include, but not be limited to, providing a series of events or activities which highlight the quality of life in this area.
Any negative activity that occurs outside of the Harborfest venues during the weekend of the festival, to my knowledge, has never been approved by the festival as acceptable, nor has any negative activity within the Harborfest venues.
In fact, to ensure the public safety, Harborfest spends approximately $33,000 each year to provide security and emergency personnel at all its venues.
I know from experience that you canâ€™t please everyone…all you can do is try to provide an opportunity for someone to experience something positive.
I feel that the people that are employed by, serve on, and volunteer for the festival, strive to do exactly that.
Thank you for your time,