Festival organizers call it quits
By JORGE SANCHEZ
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 13, 2000
INVERNESS -- Citing burnout among volunteers and a lack of new people willing to help, organizers of the Inverness Festival of the Arts decided to discontinue the downtown event after a 30-year run.
Nancy Pearson, festival chairman for the past two years, summed up her feelings:
"We just decided that it was too difficult to get people to do the work which needed to be done to make the festival happen for next year," she said. "I'm just burned out".
Many members of the Inverness Festival of the Arts Committee agreed. At the wrap-up meeting held Tuesday, following the Nov. 4-5 show, the committee agreed to disband.
"It was a mutual decision," Pearson said.
The committee's recommendation went to the Art League board of directors on Thursday morning, which accepted it, and then to the general membership later that day.
"No one tried to talk us out of it," Pearson said.
The festival committee begins planning the November event in January. Many volunteers who have been with the planning committee said they'd just been at it too long.
"I look at the picture in the newspaper of the festival committee of 10 years ago and the one this year, and it's basically the same folks," said Embeth Nagy, a longtime member.
Jaret Lubowiecki, who has been a committee member since 1979, said the long hours of volunteering became too much.
"This has been successful for 30 years," Lubowiecki said. "But everyone's just burned out."
Other factors also contributed to the festival's demise. This year, the festival was held against a backdrop of conflict between the Inverness City Council and members of the Inverness Olde Town Merchants group, with the Festival of the Arts caught in the cross-fire. The City Council wanted to strengthen an existing law prohibiting merchants from displaying their wares on the sidewalk. The merchants were strongly opposed and were able to convince the City Council to vote down the proposal. The art league felt that the merchants' sidewalk displays were unfair to the festival exhibitors, who paid entry fees.
Winston Perry, president of the Inverness Olde Town Association, said during the festival that merchants wanted to cooperate and were not opposed to the Festival of the Arts.
"We talked it over and no one had anything on the sidewalk this year. We want to see the festival continue here," he said during the festival on Nov. 5.
A lesser factor was the opposition by Inverness lawyer Gary Graham, who lives atop his law office on the square. Graham's is the only private residence on the square. He was a frequent critic of the festival, saying that it made too much noise.
When asked if the downtown situation played a role in the art league's decision, Pearson said:
"It didn't help."
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