Bill Wayne's Political Pages - The Gadfly
Gadfly Old Drum Days
Submitted to the Warrensburg Gazette for March 2, 2000

The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.

Dear Editor

Who killed Old Drum? Old Drum Days, Warrensburg's annual fall festival, is no more. It was buried without fanfare by the Greater Warrensburg Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center (GWACC&VC), without a public service or even an obituary. While the death of Old Drum Days was unexpected, in retrospect its health has been gradually declining over the last several years, rosy bulletins from the GWACC&VC after past events notwithstanding. It is to be hoped that an autopsy has been conducted and that the results are to be disclosed publicly.

It is unfortunate that a city the size of Warrensburg is unable to sustain a public festival, when most of the much smaller surrounding towns have successful or even spectacular events. Instead, the GWACC&VC plans to "focus on events that occur in conjunction with the Johnson County Fair Board." This is well and good, but scarcely replaces a local festival, especially one that brings people into our downtown area. Other towns seem to be able to support local festivals in addition to county fairs.

Is the competition from neighboring towns too much? Concordia offers 3 parades and a beer garden. Clinton has an outstanding July 4th event. Holden has a parade and a physical layout that generates a feeling of excitement. Many former vendors had moved to the Higginsville event, where turnout was higher and booth rents lower. To meet the competition, the GWACC&VC needed to be creative in scheduling, developing new activities and really using the Old Drum theme; instead they chose to quit.

Most disturbing is that this 'front page' decision was hidden deep within an article about politicians at a luncheon. Decisions that affect the whole community should be made & announced in public, not private. Were the non-profits that used Old Drum Days as their primary fundraiser approached for ideas and planning assistance? Was tourism and marketing advice sought from CMSU? Was Main Street, Inc., as the group responsible for revitalizing downtown, consulted? Did the GWACC&VC go to new groups and look for ideas in new places?

Warrensburg's tourism room tax provides promotion money that the other towns don't have, yet they succeed and Warrensburg fails. Years back, before the GWAC&VC had all this money, we had a good fall festival. I guess it's easier to quit than to go back and figure out what has changed and fix it.

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