Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Labor Day at the Post will not take place this year on the grassy expanse of Fort Oglethorpe’s former polo field/parade ground.
Declining attendance and increasing financial losses led the Fort Oglethorpe Tourism Association to cancel what had been an annual event for most of the town’s history.
Dave Patel, president of the tourism association, explained why the event is being scrapped in a letter to Mayor Lynn Long, saying,
“The members had a long, hard discussion about Labor Day at The Post, the decline in attendance and the lack of support from the community to sponsor the event. Both Catoosa and Walker County Schools will not start their school year until the day after Labor Day, Sept. 7, 2012. With the decline in attendance, no financial sponsorship for the event and the reality that many parents will use their last three-day weekend before school starts for family get-togethers, the members voted unanimously not to organize or sponsor Labor Day at The Post.”
During last week’s City Council meeting, Chris McKeever, executive director of the 6th Cavalry Museum and member of the tourism association, said the event has become a financial drain on the association’s limited budget.
“The $4,000 to $5,000 loss [each year] makes it imprudent to hold Labor Day at the Post,” she said.
The event dates to the early 1950s when it was established by Post Volunteer Fire Department. For decades, Labor Day at the Post was a premier event for residents in the area — not just those living in Fort Oglethorpe — featuring parades, fundraising barbecues and concerts by nationally known acts.
But times changed and the annual Labor Day bang became a whimper.
“The biggest issue was that so many communities began offering competition,” McKeever said. “Labor Day at the Post was no longer unique and the numbers of those attending began to shrink.”
McKeever said that fewer in attendance meant fewer vendors were willing to participate, and the quantity — and quality — of those in the parade dropped. Yet, at the same time, the cost of putting on the event kept rising.
Patel said “lost revenue” is the same reason both Post Volunteer Fire Department and the Fort Oglethorpe Tourism Association decided against continuing to host the annual event.
“As the stewards of the hotel/motel tax proceeds to promote tourism and economic development in the city, we cannot continue to put on an event that has lost revenue for the seven years we have been responsible for it,” he said.
Officials agreed that tax money could be better spent promoting the annual Patriotism at the Post, an Independence Day celebration, and making it the signature Barnhardt Circle event.
“Fireworks draws a big crowd,” McKeever said. “We’d prefer to make Patriotism at the Post the best it can be.”