By MICKI MONROE
To quote Geoffrey Chaucer, “All good things must come to an end.” And, so it is with the Kitsap Arts & Crafts Association.
For those of you who may not be aware, the Kitsap Arts & Crafts Association (KAC) is a nonprofit organization whose sole objective is to promote the arts in Kitsap County. It is also a group of hardworking volunteers who, for the last 54 years, have been responsible for producing the Kitsap Arts and Crafts Festival.
The festival is this weekend, July 26-28.
The proceeds from these festivals have funded a scholarship program that has allowed many local students to pursue their secondary educations. And now, after more than 50 years of summer art festivals and after awarding nearly $375,000 in scholarship money to North Kitsap and Kingston High School students, the 2013 Kitsap Arts & Crafts Festival will likely be the last.
In 2010, the KAC Association was desperate for volunteers. I saw an article in the paper that had stated in no uncertain terms that without help from the community, the festival would not happen. I remember thinking how much fun I had at the previous year’s event, and how it would be tragic if something with so much history and something that provided so much good to our community were to end because of a lack of community support. To me, that meant MY support.
I dragged my husband to the meeting with me, thinking that we’d take small, behind-the-scenes type roles, and we’d leave the heavy lifting to the artists and art patrons in the community — after all, we were really neither. We were just two people who’d had a good time at one of the festivals. Two busy people, I might add, with full-time jobs and not a lot of free time.
By the time the meeting was over, my husband had volunteered to take on the role of chief fundraiser and I had volunteered to be the primary contact for all questions festival-related, plus I’d signed up to help organize the Patrons Preview Party. Other members of the community had stepped up for key roles such as vendor coordination, volunteer coordination and PR, and it looked as if disaster had been averted.
Unfortunately, the next year our president, treasurer, secretary and art show coordinator retired. My husband was elected president of the organization, and we still had a small but committed team that was determined to keep the festival and the scholarship program going. Since then, our board has dwindled to a team of six very overworked volunteers. People have moved away, gotten ill or become too busy — life happens!
Last year, we had to resort to bringing in my husband’s family from out of state to help during the festival, since our pleas for help from the locals had gone unheeded. My mother-in-law checked IDs in the beer garden, worked the sales desk at the Fine Art Show and emptied trash cans. My sister-in-law helped me decorate the Preview Party venue and helped me set up and sell in my craft booth. My nephews “booth sat” for vendors needing a restroom or lunch break and helped put up and take down signs, and my brother-in-law played bartender in the beer garden.
These are people who received absolutely NO benefit for their involvement in the festival. Their kids are not eligible for our scholarships, they do not own a business in the community that might benefit from the influx of tourist dollars, and they barely got to enjoy the festival or spending time with us because we were all so busy.
This year, we are again sending out a plea to our community: We need help! A festival takes a lot of hard work to put on. Think about all the time and effort that goes into Kingston’s 4th of July festivities or Kites Over Kingston. Now, multiply that times three.
The KAC Festival is Kingston’s ONLY three-day event. And whereas the 4th of July and Kites tends to attract mostly locals, our festival has the potential to bring thousands of attendees from outside of Kitsap — people who might be visiting our town for the first time. People who might want to come back at some point. People with money in their pockets. Money this community depends on.
As I look around our community, I see many small businesses that can, and do, profit from the attendees that our festival is bringing to town. If the KAC Festival goes away, next year the money that folks could be spending in Kingston will go to Silverdale’s Whaling Days or Port Ludlow’s Festival by the Bay — both of which happen on the same weekend.
When my husband accepted the nomination to be president of the KAC, I was worried. Neither of us had any experience at running a nonprofit or producing a festival. I was afraid that this festival with its long-standing history of benefitting the community would die on our watch, and that a mistake we made out of ignorance would be the reason for it’s demise. Sadly, my fears were justified, but it’s nothing that we’ve done wrong — it’s because the support of the community is critical and it’s just not there.
The KAC has had a good run. It has provided nearly 200 scholarships since we started keeping track in the ’70s. We’ve given money to multiple children within a single family, to a young man, and then later, his daughters. We’ve helped at least two individuals achieve their dreams of becoming doctors.
It’s an organization that I’ve been proud to be a part of. And I’m sad that our community is willing to let it go.
— Contact Micki Monroe at firstname.lastname@example.org