Railfest is a go

The Silver Wolf Tribe of Broadalbin perform one of several belly dances at the city Railfest on Aug. 5, 2017 at Trail Station Park. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

GLOVERSVILLE — Questions surrounding the future of Railfest after its absence in 2018 were answered during Tuesday’s Common Council meeting when former organizers officially turned the event over to the city Recreation Commission whose members say Railfest will be held this year.

The summer community event, Railfest, held annually in the city for 13 years at Trail Station Park was due to be held for a 14th time in 2018 until organizers announced the cancellation of the event several months before it was to take place citing a lack of volunteers.

According to past organizers on the Railfest Committee, dwindling volunteer numbers created challenges for several years before 2018 that nearly led to the cancellation of the daylong event featuring family friendly activities, games, bounce houses, vendors, food and music.

A movement to bring Railfest back this year sought to recruit new volunteers to plan the event that was put on by an independent committee of community members. Seven locals formally committed to taking on the task during an informational meeting on Thursday, including Logan Barclay, Jeremy Krajewski and City Clerk Jennifer Mazur who also serve on the city Recreation Commission, but no decisions were made following the meeting on how to proceed, if at all.

On Tuesday, former members of the Railfest Committee appeared before the Common Council to announce their decision to fully turn over the event to the Recreation Commission.

“The committee decided that it probably would be best. I know that Logan, Jenni and Jeremy are very committed and I want to thank them,” former Railfest Committee member Robin Wentworth said. “We took a lot of time trying to figure out whether to just let it go or to try to find some way to keep it going. The [Recreation] Commission did offer their assistance to either partner with the remaining committee or to take it over directly.”

As Railfest is a registered business name, relinquishing the name to the commission required permission from the past members of the organizing committee — Wentworth, Barclay, Ellen Anadio, Vanessa Williams and Jessica Holmes. Barclay was the only committee member able to commit to returning before the decision to relinquish control was made, while Wentworth offered to provide guidance and training to new organizers moving forward.

Wentworth noted that although city officials and employees have historically supported Railfest and been involved in bringing it to fruition, it was previously organized by a committee operating independently from the city, allowing the event to serve as a fundraiser each year donating proceeds to a local non-profit. That will no longer be possible once taken over by the city Recreation Commission.

“The city cannot donate money to other groups. That would be OK, because the money could be used by the [Recreation] Commission who does a lot of things for the community, so again it would be going back into the community,” Wentworth said.

With the decision, Wentworth said remaining startup funds for the event that have been managed for the Railfest Committee since its inception by the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce will be transferred to the Recreation Commission.

Wentworth went on to thank the volunteers, sponsors and city personnel for their involvement in Railfest over the years and the Recreation Commission for taking over.

“I know they’re going to do a great job,” Wentworth said. “I look forward to hopefully seeing it this year.”

Following the meeting, Krajewski and Barclay, who were both in attendance, confirmed Railfest will return this year, most likely on the event’s traditional date on the first Saturday in August.

“We’re still planning on getting local bands to play and good food, good vendors, bounce houses and events for kids. We think we’ve tapped into a few organizations for volunteer help for the event itself,” Krajewski said.

“If we can add to it we’ll add to it, but I think the things that people have come to expect will be there,” Barclay added.

Krajewski said further plans for Railfest will be discussed at the next Recreation Commission meeting on March 28, including the formation of a subcommittee of commission members and community volunteers to directly oversee planning for the event.

“We are actually working on getting subcommittees together for all of our bigger events,” Krajewski added. The Recreation Commission committed to organizing a calendar of 16 city events this year prior to the decision to take over Railfest.

Additionally, Krajewski said the Recreation Commission plans to explore options to incorporate a fundraising component during the event despite the restriction preventing the city committee from providing a direct donation to an outside entity.

“We want to keep with the spirit of Railfest and find a way to work with local non-profits and guide them to run fundraisers at our event so we can still help raise money,” Krajewski said.

Over the course of 13 years, Railfest raised about $50,000 for donation to local groups.

Overall, Krajewski and Barclay said they are looking forward to bringing Railfest back to the city, maintaining the spirit of the event long familiar to area residents.

“I’m excited,” Barclay said. “I’m looking forward to the [Recreation] Commission taking it over and continuing it for years to come.”