Grove City could lose August Fest without new insurance policy
GROVE CITY -- Grove City might go without a festival this summer if August Fest organizers can't find insurance policy to replace the one the city says it no longer can provide.
Grove City's August Fest -- which involves a weekend of food, softball, kids' fair, a parade, a mud volleyball tournament, a street dance with live music and occasionally fireworks -- has been celebrated by the town's citizens since 1982.
Roger Rusch, August Fest Committee member who serves as the volunteer group's liaison to the City Council, said the city's 27th annual celebration could be in jeopardy if the festival cannot keep the city's liability insurance or find an affordable alternative form of coverage.
In April, the City Council informed the August Fest Committee the city would not insure the annual summer festival.
Janell Johnson, city clerk of Grove City, said the city's insurance provider -- the League of Minnesota Cities -- no longer covers the city festival because August Fest is an independent, nonprofit corporation. Johnson said a change in the insurance plan this year made the city realize the celebration won't be covered.
"Whether it goes on or not, it's up to the August Fest. It's not a city-sponsored event or function," Johnson said.
Rusch said the city's altered insurance policy is a bit ironic because August Fest became a registered nonprofit corporation about four years ago upon the advice of the city attorney for Grove City. At that time, Rusch said, the festival needed the status for inclusion under the city's liability insurance policy.
"He told me that what we wanted to do was to become a registered nonprofit corporation. So that's what we did," Rusch said. This year, he said, nonprofit corporations are strictly excluded from the League of Minnesota Cities special events insurance policy.
Mayor Gerald Rueckert said Grove City pays about $2,000 a year for a "blanket policy" with the League to cover any special events in the city. However, under the same policy, the city would need to pay an extra $2,000 for the three-day festival because an independent party organizes it. Rueckert said the $2,000 fee was added to the League's insurance policy this year.
"That's a little more than the city can stand," Rueckert said. "I think that is an awful lot of money for three days."
In past years, Rueckert said, the city made sure the celebration was covered by the city's insurance. But with the policy change, Rueckert said, the city isn't willing to pay the extra fee in today's economic times, especially with likely Local Government Aid cuts looming when Gov. Tim Pawlenty finishes balancing the state budget. Rueckert said he thinks the August Fest Committee can find a way to raise the money for the insurance and keep the city festival going.
However, August Fest is organized by five main volunteer families who raise funds all year long just to pay the expenses of the city celebration, Rusch said. The volunteer group could not manage the $2,000 fee, he said.
"We can't come up with that kind of money," he said.
With the city's decision, Rusch said the committee is trying to find cheaper insurance quotes for the festival. Rusch said if the committee found a cheaper insurance policy, the city may consider paying for the celebration's coverage.
Insurance or not, Rusch said, the committee may cancel August Fest altogether because the event's organization has been postponed due to the insurance uncertainty.
"There's many things that should have been done by now," Rusch said. "And we're just sort of putting everything on the back burner."
As for the bottom line, Rusch said if a cheaper insurance policy isn't found or the city doesn't cover the celebration, August Fest will be canceled.
"If we're not insured, none of us are taking on this risk anymore," Rusch said. "We just won't do it if we're not insured."