I am passionate about our small town events and believe they are part of our culture and character.
I attended a meeting last week with a small group of about 10 dedicated volunteers trying to keep together a merchant’s association. The majority in attendance felt like the Halloween event, Ghosts on the Coast, was not important enough to save. They were advised that the event generated no profits that evening so why should businesses participate. I protested and Jennifer Jenkins of the Gulf County Tourist Development Council appealed to them to give her an opportunity to speak to her board. The group decided to have another meeting in October to discuss the issue. Boyer Signs took responsibility for and will sponsor the costume contest in City Commons. A committee of volunteers is ready to go to work.
Becoming the adversarial member of a group is not pleasant. My thoughts immediately went back to the 4th of July and fireworks in Beacon Hill! This cannot happen! Halloween or “Ghost on the Coast” has become a traditional event looked forward to by the entire community. Senior citizens and all age groups come to Reid Avenue to see friends and neighbors. Look at our wonderful downtown atmosphere that a mostly volunteer group the, PSJRA, has assisted in providing.
After being informed by a member of the merchant’s committee that the Gulf County Chamber of Commerce would not produce the event, becoming proactive was required. Contacting local leaders and local business people became necessary, so I took responsibility.
Who is Dana Boyer? I have been doing events for about 30 years and love the Port St. Joe events that reinforce our small-town feeling. That feeling is what visitors and local residents appreciate about our town. I did not feel like the group at our meeting reflected the opinions of all the merchants or understand the traditions of Port St. Joe. Halloween has been celebrated downtown for at least 15 years, providing a safe environment for the children.
Guerry Magidson, president of the Chamber of Commerce, stated that the Chamber was under the impression that the merchants did not support this event, but promised that the Chamber would support the event.
Barry Sellers, director of the Chamber of Commerce, declared that Ghost on the Coast was the first event in Port St. Joe that he participated in. He told me that the event showcases PSJ at its best; a family oriented event you don’t see in Memphis or other cities. He said that even if no one purchases anything that evening, they leave feeling very positive about our businesses and community.
Three different survey sheets were presented to signers. As of Monday, 24 merchants on Reid Avenue have signed supporting the Halloween event. With a much smaller business district, we will be asking everyone in the community to drop a couple of bags of candy by your favorite business or to Boyer Signs to be distributed. No one offered to sign the form that was not in favor of the event. Businesses not on Reid Avenue signed another form showing support and offering candy.
My third call was to Port St. Joe City Commissioner Bo Patterson, also a Reid Avenue merchant. Bo was appalled, asking why we would not do it, this is a tradition. He felt like there were not enough activities in PSJ for children.
We have a problem now in Port St. Joe. Our traditional events like Ghosts on the Coast, Christmas on the Coast and 4th of July do not have a home.
The TDC will assist with funding, but do not produce events and are bound by state statutes as to how their funds are dispersed. The Chamber of Commerce has endured huge budget cuts and has no staff. Its Scallop Festival helps fund the organization. A loosely knit merchants association has no charter, bank account or liability insurance. They still worked hard and we had a 4th of July to remember.
A volunteer events committee operating under the umbrella of one of the larger organizations could solve our problems. We need to work together and solve this problem for the good of our community. The politics of the situation do not matter.
The children in costumes trick or treating, having fun and laughing matter.
Port St. Joe