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Article updated: 1/23/2013 12:32 AM

St. Charles gives RiverFest funds to Pride of the Fox

By James Fuller

For a while Tuesday night, St. Charles' largest summer festival would have been more aptly named the Price of the Fox RiverFest.

The "Pride" in the traditional title had been replaced by a power struggle between two community groups for the $30,000 of city funding to run the fest. By city staff's own description, it was "a somewhat unusual position" for aldermen to find themselves in.

But in the end, St. Charles aldermen decided to stick with Pride of the Fox LLC.

"I do want to see RiverFest succeed," said Alderman Ed Bessner. "I don't see any need or reasoning for this to be flip-flopped back and forth. Last year, between 40,000 and 45,000 folks came. My main concern is to move forward with a model of success."

Two groups had run the festival in the past. The St. Charles Festival Committee ran the RiverFest for 20 years. Then there was a move to have the Downtown St. Charles Partnership take it over. When that failed to materialize, the Pride of the Fox, LLC formed to run the show.

Three years later, there was another push for the downtown partnership to take over RiverFest. And, again, that change failed to materialize. That recently resulted in the reformation of the old St. Charles Festival Committee. But even more recently, the Pride of the Fox, LLC also reformed.

As both groups began to do some legwork on RiverFest planning, it became clear aldermen needed to choose between the two groups. It resulted in a showdown between the two organizations Tuesday night.

Joy Meierhans, who ran the festival when the St. Charles Festival Committee was in charge, said her group has 20 years of proven success. She also pointed out the Pride of the Fox group spent down half the reserve funds Meierhans committee turned over and went through recent leadership resignations. Meierhans also said Pride of the Fox LLC hasn't done much to grow the fest.

"Although the (Pride of the Fox) presentation takes credit for all current RiverFest content, it was (us)," Meierhans said.

Julie Farris, the leader of the Pride of the Fox group, said the spending down of the festival account was necessary through the recent economic downturn. Her group also made a conscious decision to increase the price of beer at RiverFest to dissuade overconsumption, Farris said. The impact was a drop in police involvement, but also a dip in revenue.

"We have had no issues at our main stage or through any of the other venues in RiverFest," Farris said. "It has been incident-free. This is now a community fest instead of the reputation we inherited, which was a beerfest."

After the last jab was thrown, and Meierhans and Farris made it clear they didn't want to be the co-directors of the festival, aldermen decided to stick with Pride of the Fox, LLC.

The measure still must go before the full St. Charles city council before it is approved.

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