Party in the Park sparks debate

As the amount of money taxpayers spend on Party in the Park rises, some are wanting more say on how it's spent.

A decision by Chilliwack city council to reluctantly double its contribution to Party in the Park has sparked some spirited debate about the summertime event and its direction.

Last week council agreed to a request from the Downtown Business Improvement Society to fortify its $7,000 contribution with an additional $8,000.

The money, said the BIA, was necessary because of rising costs and falling sponsorships. Without the increase, the association argued, it could not deliver the kind of event people have come to expect.

The request prompted some unease on council. While calling the event “one of the best things that’s happened to our community,” Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz expressed concern about the amount of money being asked for.

She was joined by others on council, who wondered if Party in the Park had lost its focus.

The growing popularity of the event – only in its seventh year – is hard to deny.

Last year, for example, an estimated 30,000 people attended the string of Friday night parties – this despite the fact one evening was rained out.

The event offers an eclectic mix of food and entertainment, family friendly events, and open market venders. It was originally designed to take advantage of the new Chilliwack Community Park, bringing friends and neighbours together on warm summer evenings to share a snack and enjoy music onstage.

Last year organizers upped the ante, bringing in some big name acts that helped swell the numbers and create a buzz in the community.

But despite the public enthusiasm, corporate support has fallen.

And that has some wondering if this isn’t a good time for the event to get back to its roots.

Certainly organizers should be impressed by the amount of interest and debate the event has generated – a testament to the ownership people have taken of this unique community celebration.

It’s also an opportunity to see what kind of Party in the Park the public truly wants.

As council noted, it may be too late for that dialogue to take place this year.

But it is a conversation that has to happen. The bill to city taxpayers has risen to nearly $16,000 from $2,000 in just three years.

There should be no surprise that some are calling for more say in how that money is spent.