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Chamber to take on Turtle Fest

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The board of the Perham Area Chamber of Commerce has agreed to bring Turtle Fest under its wing.

In addition, the chamber will be taking over leadership of Perham’s annual Parade of Lights and Rib Cook-Off, starting next year.

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The Perham Lions announced in July that the club was no longer willing to act as the financial and communications hub for Turtle Fest, and no other community groups have stepped forward thus far to take over that role.

In an effort to secure the future of Turtle Fest and the other community events, the chamber board voted on Oct. 15 to take on the extra workload that coordinating and fundraising for these events will require.

“I think it’s the right place for these community events to be (headquartered),” said chamber board member Nick Theroux. “The chamber has an organization to take this on – an office, phone and staff – and civic and community organizations don’t necessarily have that capacity.”

Designating the chamber as the ‘go-to’ place for information on these events makes sense, he said, “because the chamber is an organization that can keep it all together, and it’s a place to share that information.”

At the end of the day, however, the events will still be primarily planned and paid for by groups and individuals within the community. The Perham Center for the Arts, for example, will still be in charge of their Turtle Fest art and craft show. Having the chamber as the overall coordinator for Turtle Fest will provide the arts center with a person to contact during the planning and promotional process.

Fundraising will still be necessary to pay for all Turtle Fest and other events, with monies raised coming from local businesses, community groups and individuals. The chamber will be in charge of fundraising.

“We’re repurposing 185 East Main (the chamber office) from a tourism information center… We’re still going to do that, but we’re also becoming a community organizer for these events,” said Theroux.

Chamber Director Dan Schroeder said in an interview last week that the chamber’s staff, structure and budget would undergo some changes due to the additional workload. He has been tasked with putting together a staff restructuring plan that will cover these extra duties, within the chamber’s budget.

That plan is to be submitted to the board the first week of November.

“Basically, we’re going to restructure our staff and financials to see how we can make it work,” he said.

Once a new plan is in place, coordination of the events can begin, starting with Turtle Fest. Fundraising for Turtle Fest is scheduled to be wrapped up by March 1.

Theroux said the chamber will not be “subsidizing” events the way the Lions club did: the size and extent of the festival will depend on how much money is raised from the community.

More information on fundraising, as well as coordinator and event contacts, will be released later this year.

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Marie Johnson
Marie Johnson (formerly Nitke) came to the Perham Focus after several years as the Education and Arts & Entertainment Editor at the Herald-Review of Grand Rapids, Minn. She lives in rural Ottertail with her husband, Dan, and their spunky yellow lab, Louisa.
(218) 346-5900 x228
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