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Plans under way for 2012 Fall Festival

NEWMAN – Labor Day weekend is still nearly four months away, but planning for Newman’s annual Fall Festival is in full swing – with several changes in store for the popular community celebration.

Members of the festival’s executive committee took over event planning at the 11th-hour last year to keep the celebration of 40-plus years alive. This year, with the benefit of one festival under their belt and more time to plan, organizers are moving forward with a number of changes to streamline and continue injecting new energy into the festivities.

“We got started so late that we kind of had to stay with a lot of things the way they were,” said executive committee chair Teri Ramos. “I think we have a better handle on it this year, and we’re going to do a few different things.”

She said organizers hope to build on the success of last year’s festival.

“Everybody seemed pleased with what we did last year,” Ramos related. “I am still hearing comments about how much fun people had and how safe they felt. It was family-friendly.”

Many Fall Festival staples – such as the Miss Newman Contest, parade, pet show and much more – will remain part of the celebration, Ramos told Mattos Newspapers.

Events added last year, such as “Minute to Win It,” will return, she said, and organizers are looking for new attractions to add to the celebration. Bicycle drag races will be one new event at this year’s festival, she said by way of example.

Some long-time events may have a new look, however.

Ramos said the executive committee is proposing to move the Friday night wine-and-cheese tasting from the West Side Theatre across the way to the downtown plaza as an “Evening Under the Stars.”

“We would like to serve micro-brews as well as wine and cheese, serve a little heartier appetizers and possibly bring in a D.J.,” Ramos explained. “We want to do something a little different to hopefully bring some people back who haven’t attended for a while.”

Ramos said the festival is also planning to reduce booth fees and reconfigure the layout.

“We’re trying to make it more affordable. I think we have kept some people away because it was too expensive,” she said of the fees, adding that booth applications will be available in the near future.

Ramos said the committee is also studying options for making the festival even more visitor-friendly. One consideration this year, she said, is hiring a group to police the picnic shelter and surrounding areas to keep tables clean and collect trash throughout the days of the festival. “We want to keep it neat and clean for people to enjoy,” Ramos stated.

Financially, Ramos and Fall Festival treasurer Toni Butero said, the celebration is on solid footing.

The group held a chicken dinner last year as a fund-raiser, and plans to do so again this summer. A pasta dinner the week of the Fall Festival also helps cover the expenses of the celebration.

“We’re doing well financially. We’re debt-free,” Butero and Ramos said. “We will do fund-raisers to help cover our expenses, and our goal is to have some funds left over which we can put toward improvements in the park.”

Volunteers needed

The Fall Festival is a community celebration, organizers point out, and is only made possible through the support of volunteers.

“We still have a good volunteer base, and we have a number of new volunteers this year but we still need more,” Ramos commented. “We need volunteers at every level…..and the more volunteers we get, the less each one has to do.”

Two positions are open on the festival’s executive committee, which currently includes Ramos, Butero and vice-chair Julie Barcelos. A secretary and a co-vice chair are needed, Ramos said.

Organizationally, the Fall Festival is proceeding with plans to register as a recognized non-profit. The celebration currently operates under the auspices of the Newman Chamber of Commerce.

“We have our tax ID number, and we have written our by-laws,” Ramos said. “The rest of it is going through the process to become our own entity.”

The festival hopes to have a web site up and running in the near future, and has a Facebook page.

All Fall Festival applications and registration will be available for downloading from the Facebook page, according to Ramos.

Community members interested in becoming involved in festival planning may contact Ramos, 417-2983 or attend the Fall Festival committee meeting scheduled for Thursday, May 24, at 6 p.m. in the Newman City Council chambers.