Holbrook chamber undecided about hosting Wild West Days

By Linda Kor

The Holbrook Chamber of Commerce once again addressed the issue of whether or not to host Wild West Days for the coming year at their Nov. 8 meeting. The chamber has organized the annual event for more than 30 years handed the event over to the city last year when the Lodgers Tax funding used to fund the event was cut from the budget and the city sought to take the burden of tourism oriented events from the chamber so they could focus on serving the needs of local businesses.

The city managed to put on the event for a mere $100 outside of sponsorships and the proceeds from the Bucket of Blood Races funding the bulk of the cost, but in doing so decided that in 2018 a different approach would be taken.

Rather than hosting a two-day summer event on the historic courthouse lawn with entertainment and vendors, the city will be hosting a single evening event in April. That event will be in conjunction with the Hashknife Posse and will be held on the banks of the Little Colorado River with a bonfire, a cowboy dinner, music and storytelling of the old west.

The event would hold on to one aspect of the Bucket of Blood races, the running events, but the bicycle races are more suited to summer so the city is giving the chamber the option to continue a Wild West Day in the summer if they would be interested in hosting the vendors and entertainment for that day and expand the bicycle race with the proceeds to offset any costs; the biggest of which is the insurance and entertainment.

The concern for the chamber is that the event requires a great deal of pre-planning and without funding from the city for those big ticket items, they weren’t sure they could meet the costs required for hosting the event.

Chamber Director Cindy Tafoya explained, “Last fiscal year they (the city) retained $6,000 of the budget for Wild West Days even though you guys had already done Wild West Days, which was a $9,000 expenditure,” she stated. Shar Gillespie elaborated stating that these were funds that the chamber anticipated to reimburse them for the previous year’s event.

Tafoya noted that Kathleen Smith, the city’s community events coordinator, was also not receiving money for the event in April and did not have any for the summer event last year.

Melissa Daniels made a motion to not take on Wild West Days as an event but no second was made allowing the motion to die on the table. As the discussion continued, Gillespie explained another aspect that makes the event a challenge. “We don’t get volunteers. We try to ask organizations to take on a portion of it and keep the money earned. They say they’ll do it but they just don’t come in. Then it gets put on the shoulders of like six individuals,” she said.

“Wild West Days has so many parts to it,” agreed Tafoya, citing the entertainment, the races, the booths and other activities. “The most successful events we had was when we had the barbecue competitions but that cost a lot of money, like $10,000,” she stated. “It’s a lot to put on and not a huge money maker.”

Board member Kelly Jarvis said he’d like to table the matter and visit with members of the city council on the matter. “This has been a part of this town for a long time, I would like to keep this tradition alive and in order to do this we have to work together as a team,” he said regarding how he plans to approach the city on the matter.

After some discussion it was decided that interested board members meet to specifically discuss the matter prior to approaching city officials. The general consensus of the board was to consider the matter for one month, then after researching all options, decide whether or not this would be an event the chamber would be interested in once again taking on.