MORRICE — Volunteers in Morrice who organize the village’s annual Homecoming Festival hope someone new will step in and take over this year.
Because of a lack of help and a slow decrease in donations through the years, they say, the festival may not take place this summer if more volunteers don’t step forward.
“I love the festival,” said Kim Kollek-Jewell, the lead organizer of the annual event since 2012. “But from Jan. 1 through July, for years, this has been my life. I’m trying to step back and take a breath — all of our volunteers are. And we hope someone will care enough to want to keep this going.”
The festival started 13 years ago, according to Phyllis Dickerson, a member of the organizing committee since the event started. Dickerson puts on the event with four other people — her husband, village President Bob Dickerson, Kollek-Jewell, village Police Chief Matt Balsley and Lisa Haring.
Originally, she said, there was great enthusiasm about the festival, which occurs on the last weekend of June every year. The owner of Mugg and Bopps convenience store paid for a grand fireworks display, and the Morrice school district allowed it to take place on its grounds.
Large groups of volunteers got together and raised funds for myriad events; including a craft show, tractor pull, parade, live music and a circus. Cleanup was a breeze with so many people chipping in. And people responded, she said, with attendance topping 1,000. The village itself has a population of less than 900.
“This is one of the things that brings the village together,” Dickerson said. “The fireworks, especially, are wonderful. You can sit almost right underneath them, and they’re so beautiful. It’s a kickoff to the Fourth of July.”
Over time, people have continued to turn out for the event. However, the flow of volunteers dried up. The convenience store owner sold his business and the village was left to raise funds for the fireworks show, which cost more than $7,000. Fewer people responded to help with the cleanup. Events were cut from the schedule.
“It can be frustrating. I (organized) the craft show for a couple of years — our participation was dwindling every year and when I finally took it away, we had people calling up a week before to ask why it wasn’t going to be there,” Kollek-Jewell said.
Among Kollek-Jewell’s duties are mailing more than 100 fliers to individuals and businesses asking for donations, arranging for portable toilets to be used at the event, organizing volunteers and assisting with cleanup. It’s a lot of work, she said, but it’s worth it for the little moments, like watching young families get together and enjoy a night outside.
“Nobody I ever talk to is disappointed with Homecoming. If you put in the work, it’s very rewarding. But it takes a lot of work to get it right,” Kollek-Jewell said. “I’m just tired. We all are.”
“It’s always the same people doing it, and we have families and jobs,” Dickerson added. “I’d rather see people step in and cycle through, so nobody gets burnt out.”
Finances are another key issue.
The event has gotten by with donations from stakeholders like Perry Township, village attorney John Gormley and the Meal and More feed elevator, as well as many small donors. But Kollek-Jewell said her fundraising efforts play a large role in making ends meet, and still, they barely have enough to cover their expenses.
“My biggest fear is this — we have a little bit of money that is left over from what I raised last year. It’s enough to get started. But if this isn’t done right, and enough money isn’t raised, it will dwindle everything we have and there will be no chance to bring it back next year,” she said.
Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to call the village office at (517) 625-4170. The next Homecoming Festival committee meeting is scheduled at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the village office, 401 N. Main St.