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Earlier this month Celebrate West St. Paul Days—the organization responsible for the annual West St. Paul Days events, including the parade and West St. Paul royalty—announced they were closing. The announcement cited a lack of resources and support.
“We were not made to feel we had the support of the city,” said Celebrate West St. Paul Days Board Secretary Jessi Keller. She noted a lack of volunteers and difficult fundraising. “We had a lack of interest from our community youth in being involved in the ambassador program and our very small, all-volunteer board has been running everything for many years with no new volunteers to hand it off to.”
Without any new volunteers, the organization planned to make 2020 their final year. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, canceling the entire slate of events in mid-May.
“We rely on our local business for support, and with many struggling or closing they are less able to support us,” said Keller.
With a budget in the range of $30,000 to $40,000 and no paid employees, the organization wasn’t eligible for any of the various pandemic relief funds.
The organization previously cancelled the royalty program in 2018 due to a lack of applicants. (Here’s our interview with 2019 West St. Paul Princess Celia Dickey.)
The announcement has brought surprise and shock from the community, as well as a number of heartfelt thanks for the years of dedicated work.
The Celebrate West St. Paul Days board included President Dave Wenda, Vice President/Interim Treasurer Jen Baltes, Secretary Jessi Keller, and members Anita Dickey, Kari Hartman, and Sarah Tobin. Plus many, many other volunteers over the years.
While the Celebrate West St. Paul Days organization officially goes back to 1991, there have been parades and West St. Paul Days events going back to at least 1960.
When asked for a favorite memory from 30 years of community service, Keller said, “There are too many to list. Every year has brought us joy.”
So with Celebrate West St. Paul Days shutting down, what happens now? It will be up to another organization or group of organizations—possibly with help from the city—to pick up the pieces and keep the tradition going.
“We greatly hope someone will take on having a festival,” said Keller. The organization is open to “selling” the business name to any other groups that have the proper systems and paperwork in place.
At a recent City Council meeting, Council Member Bob Pace urged anyone interested in continuing West St. Paul Days to reach out to him. He recalled going to parades as a kid and hopes to connect interested volunteers so someone can take up the work.
Celebrate West St. Paul Days is having a liquidation sale on Saturday to sell off festival supplies, a float, truck, decorations, art supplies and more. All proceeds will go to a local scholarship.
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