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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Aw Shucks!

Oyster Festival’s future at risk

By Brian McCready
Milford Bureau Chief
— The wildly popular Oyster Festival may not make its 35th anniversary as organizers say the city’s request to pay for police officers would force the annual event to end after this year.
Milford Oyster Festival Committee members addressed the Board of Aldermen Monday night, urging members to reconsider having the nonprofit pay the $26,000 neeeded to hire police.
Committee member Paula Smith and President Jay Pinto said if the city does not continue to pay for the police, the festival will end. The Oyster Festival is the city’s most popular event, drawing more than 50,000 people downtown each August.
Aldermanic Chairman Ben Blake, D-5, said no formal request has been made, and the issue arose when the aldermen began discussing the police budget. He said because of the economy, the aldermen are looking to save money wherever possible.
Blake pledged if there is a reduction in funding, it will be done in a way to ensure the festival continues.
“No way, no how (will the festival end),” Blake said.
Smith said the city has always been very supportive, and provided police coverage.
“If that support is cut, the festival will be in trouble,” Smith said. “This will probably be its last year.”
Smith said the committee can’t come up with the funds. This year the committee is expected to take in $174,000 and has bills totaling $180,000.
She said loyal sponsors are already spread too thin. Smith produced the festival’s financial history, which shows that from 2002 through 2007, the largest profit for one year was just $13.
The 34th Oyster Festival will be held Aug. 16. Foghat, a group known for such hit singles as “Slow Ride” and “Fool for the City,” has been signed as the headliner.
Smith said not having an Oyster Festival would be unfathomable.
“It’s one of the things that makes Milford what it is,” Smith said. “It brings the community together. It’s a town party. It would be a huge loss to the character of the town.”
Pinto said he hopes to educate the aldermen concerning the committee’s financial picture. He said canceling the festival would be a “travesty.”
Blake said he disagrees that having the festival pay for the police officers would result in the annual event being discontinued. He said other nonprofits like the Irish Festival pay for police officers.
Blake said the aldermen will work with festival organizers to ensure the popular event continues.
“The Oyster Festival is part of the cultural fabric of our city,” Blake said. “I’ll do what I can to ensure it carries on.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course we cannot afford to do this - all our money has to go to the school budget.
Residents without children in the system - get very little in return. Now this will be taken away. What is next - the police or fire departments?

May 6, 2008 at 3:06 PM 

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