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St. Paul Park Heritage Days ownership up for grabs

The Heritage Days royalty program, along with the festival itself, remains up in the air for 2014 as the city of St. Paul Park seeks an event organizer. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)

With the future of St. Paul Park’s Heritage Days still uncertain, city officials are soliciting help from citizens to plan the annual get-together.

After longtime event organizer Jim Domeier retired from organizing the festival earlier this year, the City Council sought direction through an online poll. The results, which produced just over 50 responses, suggest that residents want to see Heritage Days continue but with some changes.

Before the city seeks help from an outside source, an offer is being extended to individuals or a community group in St. Paul Park to spearhead the festival’s planning and execution.

Discussion quickly turned to ownership of the festival during a recent workshop after council member Jeff Swenson suggested the city find an organizer sooner rather than later. But with no one in mind, the council is opening up the job to citizens and is giving them until Dec. 2 to decide.

“The reason we’re putting this on the fast track is that I do know that finding an organizer now should be happening in order for us to have a successful event (in 2014),” Swenson said.

During the workshop, the council briefly described the results of the online poll which show residents want to keep the parade, street dance and mud volleyball tournament. However, the location of the festival and on-street liquor allowance needed be re-evaluated.

“Taking alcohol out of the picture would be a great improvement,” one resident wrote.

“I would recommend fencing off the (alcohol) area altogether,” another submitted, with several others suggesting moving the event off Broadway Avenue.

Domeier, who attended the meeting, defended the traditional festival format.

“If you get rid of the alcohol you get rid of the people,” he said.

Despite police statements that alcohol was a factor in the increased number of police calls and contact along Broadway during the 2013 festival, Domeier told the council that on-street drinking should remain.

Other residents at the workshop raised concerns about not knowing specifics about event budget and legal parameters and asked for more information about running a festival.

However, the council said without knowing who will step forward, providing a rough idea of how Heritage Days could operate in 2014 is not easy.

“Knowing the scope of what next year is going to be or whether or not it is going to happen at all is going to be up to anyone who wants to step up,” Mayor Keith Franke said.

Last year, the city pitched in $10,000 to the event — $5,000 for the festival and $5,000 to the royalty program — with the rest coming out of the Heritage Days Festival fund, a nonprofit that Domeier founded.

In the event that no one from the community steps forward, the city is expected to seek outside vendors.

“Putting on an event of this size is large,” council member Jennifer Cheesman said. “There are a lot of moving parts and I’d like to see a group with some experience that has something we can look at to say they’ve been successful.”

Interested parties have until Dec. 2 to submit a request for more information, which includes a budget, previous year’s plans and the detailed results of the online poll.

Citizens or community groups interested in more information about planning Heritage Days should contact City Administrator Kevin Walsh or Mayor Keith Franke.

To view the complete results of the Heritage Days poll, visit the city of St. Paul Park’s website at: