The chair of Scallop Days is worried.
Dale Kearney and a whole new board took over Digby’s oldest festival in February, and now, with just over a month to go, they are about $10,000 short of their fundraising goals.
“We have a $30,000 budget and we’ve only gotten about $20,000 checked off,” said Kearney on Wednesday, June 25. “We need some sponsors and donations to be able to run things properly.”
Kearney says they have had no luck attracting support from the scallop industry and local businesses have been telling him they are asked two and three times a day to support local events and organizations.
“There’s only so much you can do in a small town,” said Kearney. “There’s just not enough to go around.”
Kearney doesn’t feel the problem is too many events however.
“Digby can support three festivals,” he said. “It’s just getting them to do it. A lot of people are expecting Scallop Days to fail because of Wharf Rat and Lobster Bash but we’re not doing anything elaborate, we’re just focussing on families and kids.”
This will be the 39th Digby Scallop Days and Kearney says they will hold the festival for sure but without more financial support, they will have to reevaluate some of the events.
He says fireworks, children’s parades and the children games are among the events that could be cut.
Kearney says, as a new group with no one to tell them how Scallop Days has been organized in the past, they have been figuring it as they go.
They made some decisions, which resulted in lower revenue, such as dropping the price of their ads to attract more advertisers and lowering the fee for vendors to get more vendors to come to town.
Kearney says some people told him they had bad experiences with Scallop Days in the past.
“We’re trying to change all that,” he said. “That’s why we agreed to come on board, to start over.”
Kearney stresses the lack of funds isn’t because of mismanagement but because of lack of local support.
“Our books are open and up-to-date,” he said. “Anyone can come and look at them anytime.”
He says they are also looking for volunteers.
“We’ve posted to Facebook but no one is signing up to help,” he said. “There’s no one to run children’s parade, no one to run kids games.”
He said thankfully Margaret Gray of May Pyes found four people to run the car show.
They only have two princesses signed up so far for the Scallop Days Queen pageant, even after extending the deadline to July 1.
Given the small number of contestants, they plan to hold the coronation in the Heritage Centre to save a little more money.
The Town of Digby has granted the festival $5,000 (although the town’s budget still needs final approval), the Municipality of the District of Digby has granted $3,000 and the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism has also contributed $1,000.
“But people just don’t realize all the little amounts that add up,” said Kearney. “Insurance, scallop shucking, the princess pageant, it all costs money.”
Digby mayor Ben Cleveland understands Kearney’s concerns but thinks it will all work out.
“I’m confident it will be as great as ever,” he said. “I look forward to Scallop Days every year and I know a lot of other people do too. People plan their trips home, people plan their reunions around it. It is a nice time for the community to get together and celebrate.
“It has been recognized as one of the top 100 festivals of its kind in North America and with the support of the volunteers and financial contributions, it will be a success this year and for many more in the future.”
Digby Scallop Days runs from Aug. 6 to 10. For more information and a schedule of events, check out www.digbyscallopdays.com.