Foothills Foundation will take over July 4th event from district

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By AJ Vicens

The Foothills Park and Recreation District will no longer put on the annual Red, White and You Fourth of July celebration, citing increasing budget pressures amid a sluggish economy.

But the Foothills Foundation, a nonprofit agency that raises money to support various district projects, will put on the festival, with any proceeds going back to the district. "Red, White and You is something we considered very early on through the budget process as to whether it was an event we can continue to support with the current financial situation and staffing levels," said Ronald Hopp, Foothills executive director. "We've considered a lot of things in different areas, and that was an event we thought there might be a different way to approach it."

Hopp said the event costs about $30,000 to stage every year, but most of that money is raised via sponsorships and vendor fees. He estimates the net savings of the cut to be about $5,000. "It's not a significant amount, but it will also allow staff to focus on other events."

The festival is just one of the major proposed cuts to Foothills’ preliminary 2009 budget, which will be presented to the board of directors Oct. 14. Further cuts are planned in the wake of the recent elimination of several positions, and fees for some programs will go up.

Hopp said he's glad the event will see its fifth year and that the Foothills Foundation, which puts on the annual Summerset Festival, has stepped up to the plate.

"They have agreed to take on this patriotic event at Clement Park as a fund-raising event," Hopp said. "It's kind of a win-win-win: We can reduce staffing levels and time associated with the event, we're able to reap the financial benefits from the event that the Foothills Foundation will do, and the third is the event continues."

Hopp added that canceling the event altogether was a consideration.

"But it's a popular event. In its fourth year, this past year, it drew nearly 45,000 attendees."

"The Foothills Foundation produces Summerset, and we have a lot of things already in place to produce a major event," said Lora Knowlton, executive director of the foundation. "We will just be piggybacking off some of those resources."

Knowlton said the foundation has been operating the beer tent at Red, White and You, so it already was involved. Conversations with the district about taking over the event started a few weeks ago, and the foundation’s board of directors approved the decision Oct. 6. "We're going for it," Knowlton said.

People attending the event shouldn't notice any major difference.

"The continuity from one year to the next should be fairly streamlined," Knowlton said. The foundation will evaluate the layout of the event to make it a little more efficient, but not much will be different.

"Foothills has done an awesome job in developing relationships with community people, business types and the layout of the event," Knowlton said. "There will be a great transition for us to step in and move forward with what they've started."

It would be strange for Red, White andYou to be operated by anyone else, she said.

"This is a natural fit for the Foothills Foundation," Knowlton said. "It's a win-win for both (the foundation and the district), and a win-win for the community because we get to continue the tradition of this great event."

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com.