MERIDEN — Daffodil Festival organizers say they are not holding the annual pre-festival appreciation dinner and reception for volunteers and sponsors this year because the event became too costly.
The cost to run the event has risen over the years as attendance has grown, said Mark Zebora, chairman of the Daffodil Festival committee. Last year’s dinner cost $24,003, according to a Form 990 tax return submitted by the festival committee. Roughly 1,000 people attended, according to Zebora.
“It got to be a very costly venture, and with the fundraising being as difficult as it is, we chose to give that a rest for now,” Zebora said.
To save money, the committee spent days cooking food for the event, which became taxing, Zebora said.
“I had a room full of zombies walking around Friday morning because some people had been cooking for three, four, days,” he said.
The annual dinner, which dates back decades, was held at the Hubbard Park tennis courts on the Thursday night prior to the festival. The event was meant to show appreciation for the festival’s hundreds of volunteers and roughly 50 sponsors, including local businesses and civic organizations, who were given a certain number of tickets to distribute.
"It's our way of saying, ‘Thank you,’" Jane Dunn, a festival committee member who organized last year’s appreciation dinner, told the Record-Journal during the event last year.
The costs associated with the dinner primarily involve food, alcohol, entertainment, and decorations, Zebora said. Last year, attendees were also given a special 40th anniversary wine glass that they could use to sample wines and beer.
Zebora said it’s a “very good possibility” the committee will bring the event back in the future. The committee may try to restrict attendance if the event is reinstated, he said, adding it’s “too early to say.”
Fundraising for the Daffodil Festival has become more difficult over the years as local companies who used to donate — like Canberra, International Silver Co., and many local banks — are no longer around, Zebora said.
“Our fundraising demographics in Meriden have changed,” he said. “Twenty years ago, there were nine to 10 banks in town willing to write a check. Now, there are no local banks, they’re all national, large corporations who only have a branch in Meriden.”
Many costs associated with running the festival have also increased, including shuttle bus service which the festival provides for free.
“I can remember when buses were $12 an hour and now they're $31, $32 an hour,” he said.
Last year, the Daffodil Festival ran a deficit of $58,280 after recording total profit of $25,451 for the 2017 festival and a profit of $13,423 for the 2016 festival, according to tax returns submitted by the committee. Zebora said the deficit last year was caused a couple of factors, including more money spent on entertainment to celebrate the festival’s 40th anniversary, as well as rainy weather on the Sunday of the festival which caused a drop in revenue from food and rides. The festival also lost revenue because a newly installed irrigation system at Hubbard Park prevented food trucks from participating last year, Zebora said.
The festival’s revenue dropped from $454,501 in 2017 to $335,929 last year, while total expenses dropped from $429,050 to $394,209, according to the Form 990. Last year’s deficit brought the committee’s year-over-year fund balance down from $119,306 to $61,026.