New organization for future Bell Tower Festivals

Planning has started for the 40th Bell Tower Festival, slated for June 7-8, 2019, but the planning looks different from recent festivals.

Organization of the annual festival is transitioning from Greene County Chamber & Tourism to an independent, volunteer-led steering committee.

The change is orchestrated by a group of more than 20 past Bell Tower Festival chairs and people who have been active in the Chamber. Their goals are to return the festival to a volunteer-led event as it was originally; to return it to being a celebration of life in Greene County; and to make it a break-even event if not a profitable event.

The alumni committee has met twice a month for the past several months, developing a strategy and organizational plans. Once the alumni committee fills a 10-person all-volunteer steering committee, the alumni committee plans to serve as advisory only.

Doug Rieder was one of the people who worked on the first Bell Tower Festival in 1979 and he chaired the 1984 festival. He and Craig Hertel, also a past festival chair, have been spokespersons for the alumni committee.

After 39 years, the festival is struggling to remain viable, particularly with most of the planning falling to the under-staffed Chamber. “The first thing we did was to talk to a lot of people and ask if the festival should continue or just be finished. Most people said they’d like it to continue,” Rieder said.

Pete Russell is on the alumni committee as a past chair and agreed to chair the 2019 festival. Ann Ostendorf has agreed to assist her and to step up as chair of the 2020 festival. Succession to the chair position is part of the organizational chart.

The alumni committee is facing one large challenge – there is no money for the festival at this time. The committee has opened an account at Home State Bank to accept “seed money” for the 2019 festival that can be used for deposits on entertainment, porta-pots, and the like. The hope is to maintain that fund with proceeds from one year covering early expenses of the next.

According to Rieder, festival sponsorships will be solicited as well.

There are still positions on the steering committee, including several that don’t lead to being overall festival chair.

Persons or organizations that would like to provide seed money can take donations to Home State Bank for the Bell Tower Festival account. The account, like the festival, is independent of the Chamber.
Persons who would like to be considered for a steering committee position or who would like to help in any way can email Russell at peterussell909 [at] gmail [dot] com

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