Community members came out en masse for a town hall meeting March 9 with a clear mission: retain Homer Davenport Days.
Moderator Dixon Bledsoe has facilitated gatherings of big business leaders, but besides setting an open, casual and friendly tone, the meeting practically ran itself.
While the Homer Davenport Days board and members received praise and applause for their service over the past several years, the vast majority of the 55 in attendance were galvanized in their intent to form a
completely new organization to continue the first-weekend-in-August tradition celebrating Silverton’s most famous native son, albeit with a few tweaks. Gus Frederick advocated including a regional farmers’ market and returning to its original logo featuring cartoonist Homer’s self-portrait.
The meeting was the culmination of a grassroots movement that emerged last fall when the Homer Davenport Days board announced it was moving the festival to mid-July. Since then the board at various times has changed the date, suspended it until next year and at one point cancelled it altogether. The result was public outcry, the stepping down of several board members and much confusion.
The traditional weekend has been essential in funding many local service organizations. Silverton Lions Club has been holding its fund raising breakfast that weekend longer than the 30-year Homer Days tradition.
Silverton Alumni Association’s reunion and the festival complement one another, as does Silverton Flywheels’ annual Cruise-In.
After receiving good support at a previous meeting, March 7 Silverton Rotary Club voted to offer its support and organization in facilitating both the event and its main fund raiser, the Father’s Day Strawberry Festival.
Rotary leader Glen Barker said the organization has the non-profit status, the experience in planning events and fundraisers and the history of giving back to the community that equips Rotary to become the “umbrella” overseeing the festival.
“We have the structure already in place and the expertise to manage it, but we recognize this isn’t something we can do alone,” he said. The event leadership will include many from the community at large, he added.
A few current HDD board members came to the meeting and none disputed the new group’s ability to put on the August event.
Yet, as Larry Thomas said, they wished the upsurge of long-sought support would join the existing non-profit organization – something the new group was unwilling to do. Having spoken with a local attorney, Sam Sloper explained the primary reason.
“By joining the current organization you inherit anything done from way back to when the festival was incorporated,” Sloper said. “If any of you wants to put your personal assets at risk and join the current board, OK; but I can’t afford to do that.”
Organizations in general boil down to people, noted Ken Hector, former mayor of Silverton. “…and people’s lives change,” he said, “they move; they get burned out; they get sick or something else, so what you look for is a constant. One constant over the years is that Silverton has put on a quality event that gives back to the community.” However, due to its voluntary nature, said Hector, leadership often waxes and wanes.
“The Rotary Club has a great, worldwide history of philanthropy and, if anything, they’re inclusive,” Hector continued. “This event, whoever runs it, must be inclusive, but they cannot be pulled into the past and possible outstanding legal issues,” he said.
“This is a time when divorce makes sense,” Hector said. “We need fresh people and a fresh, clean, legal organization. Even if – in the worst case – it has to have a new name, people are still going to come.”
The room was full of people offering to assist. Dr. Michael Kim’s dentist office made a $2,000 donation. Many of the “new crew”represented years of experience making Homer happen. Former Homer president Richard Carlson encouraged people to sign up to help. “Now, it’s just a matter of putting the people together and making it happen.”
Those interested in volunteering may contact Richard Carlson, 503-551-1180.