After Ribfest's, Christkindlmarket's departures, how should Naperville use extra event funding?
With the impending departure of two major Naperville festivals, city leaders are faced with determining the best way to reallocate roughly $300,000 in special event funding next year.
But first, they'll have to decide what to do with $70,000 set aside for this winter's Christkindlmarket at Naper Settlement before organizers unexpectedly pulled the plug.
Held the past three years in downtown Naperville, the German holiday market typically receives support from the special events cultural arts fund to help cover police, fire and other city services during the event. However, operator German American Events recently announced the market would not be returning and declined this year's funding.
During a workshop this week, city council members expressed interest in putting the money toward a replacement event and additional holiday lighting at Naper Settlement. But they said they don't want to commit until they have a chance to review plans proposed by the Naperville Heritage Society, which manages the museum grounds.
"I think we have a unique scenario in this case just because we lost Christkindlmarket on very short notice. It was very upsetting to a very large number of people in the community," Councilman Kevin Coyne said. "If there is an opportunity to fill that hole ... I'd want to see what was coming, how we could fill this and consider it on its merits at that time."
Ribfest, too, has been a longtime recipient of annual special events cultural arts fund grants, made possible by a 1 percent citywide food and beverage tax. The Fourth of July festival is moving out of Naperville after this summer, freeing about $230,000 that could be put toward other projects or initiatives in 2020, said Councilwoman Rebecca Boyd-Obarski, who serves as the liaison to the commission overseeing the fund program.
"(These are) circumstances I don't think any of us would have predicted a year ago that we find ourselves in today," she said.
The windfall in the coming years could serve as a unique opportunity to implement new cultural amenities or maintain existing ones, Boyd-Obarski said. The fund commission now is expected to explore longer-term capital projects or other options for using the money that would otherwise be spent on Ribfest and Christkindlmarket.
Making a decision on how to spend this year's Christkindlmarket award is a more time-sensitive issue, City Clerk Pam Gallahue said, noting the city's special events team already is "fairly booked the rest of the year."
Within the past week, she said, Naper Settlement representatives informed the city of their intention to submit two separate requests for the money. The first would be to add holiday lighting around the museum grounds, expanding upon ongoing efforts by the Rotary Club of Naperville Sunrise. The second would be to host a holiday-themed event over multiple weekends in December.
Naper Settlement representatives declined to comment on the proposed event, saying it's still in "very early planning and approval stages."
Councilman Paul Hinterlong questioned whether it would be fair to award the funds to a new event without opening the application process to other organizations. But given the time crunch and the unforeseen circumstances of Christkindlmarket leaving, Mayor Steve Chirico said it would make sense to put the money toward a similar project, as long as the proposal is in good shape.
"We did approve and allocate a certain amount of money toward a holiday fest," he said. "It's not the one we thought it was going to be, but I still think allocating (funds) toward another holiday fest would be reasonable."
The fund's commission and staff members are expected to review Naper Settlement's two applications and provide a recommendation to the city council. If funding is approved, any remaining balance from the $70,000 could be awarded to other current fund awardees whose requests were not fully funded.