There’s an interesting story behind this year’s Fall Carnival, which was scheduled for Halloween night.
Although the event was planned, it nearly didn’t happen. On Oct. 11, Cottonwood Parks and Recreation Administrative Assistant Robin Babbitt sent out a press release stating, “The annual Fall Carnival, presented by the city of Cottonwood Parks and Recreation Department, will not be held this year.
This event has been held mostly at the Old Town Activity Park for over 20 years. It was canceled this year because of diminishing attendance and budget cuts.”
The following day, Recreation Coordinator II Jak Teel sent a followup release to media:
“Yesterday a colleague of mine had sent you an email in regard to our Fall Carnival. I would ask that you please do not run that PSA as we are discussing internally if we can make the program happen this year .... Once a decision has been made I will send a follow-up email confirming what we would like to do with this event.”
The news of the cancellation came as a surprise to Mayor Timothy Elinski, who had not received word from Parks and Recreation.
After reading the first of the department’s two press releases in an area newspaper, he reached out to City Manager Doug Bartosh. Bartosh, who likewise did not know of the cancellation, looked into the matter and discovered the event had been removed from the 2017-18 budget due to 3 percent budget cuts across the board.
“It’s disturbing to read in the paper,” Elinski said, adding that to his knowledge cutting the event had not been openly discussed during the budget process.
“If something’s going to be removed, it should be discussed.” Elinski offered to round up sponsors to make the event a reality, but without time to bring the event before council for city approval he ultimately took the matter into his own hands.
He approached Yavapai County District 3 Supervisor Randy Garrison, who offered his property, the Old Town Square on Main Street — the open lot south of Pizzeria Bocce — as a location for the event. The Haunted Group’s Michelle and Eric Jurisin offered an undisclosed amount to fund the event, while Verve Tents and Events and the Old Town Association offered additional event resources.
Elinksi himself, as well as Councilwoman Tosca Henry, successfully rounded up volunteer to staff the event and act as judges for the costume contest. The carnival ultimately cost less than the estimated $5,000 the council allocated for the event in previous years, according to Elinski, and the model may be a permanent one if the city remains uninterested or unable to allocate funding for it.
“Maybe this is just how it lives from now on, as a community sponsored event,” he said. “All of this has taken place in less than a month, pulling all of it together,” Garrison said Monday. Oct. 23, praising Elinski and the Jurisins for their intervention and charity.
“We were trying, last minute, to create something down there that the kids have come to expect .... Between last Friday and Sunday we had a carnival in place and the finances to do it.”
Although he has issues with the apparent lack of transparency when it came to the carnival’s cancellation, Elinski said the issue is less about determining how the event was axed and more about preserving an event the community has come to rely on.
“It’s not my intention to point fingers .... I just wanted to make sure this event happens,” he said. “I think it’s good for the kids.”