SUMMERSIDE – Summerside Rotarians raised some questions Tuesday, over their involvement in the ownership of the Summerside Lobster Carnival.
The questions were posed to lobster carnival president Rev. Arthur Davies after he outlined plans for the upcoming festival.
Rotarian Derek Key said the Greater Summerside Chamber of Commerce initiated the lobster carnival and the city ran it.
He said in the mid ‘90s the city opted out and it was taken over by five service groups.
Each group would take an event as a fundraiser for its work and involve volunteers from their organization to make the event the best it could be.
Now only two of those groups remain, the Summerside Rotary Club and the Summerside Legion.
With the loss of three of the owners, the number of volunteers has dropped and with it the amount of money raised. It has been difficult to attract new organizations to help take ownership of the event.
Over the years, both the Rotary Club and the legion would receive about $10,000 in revenue from the lobster carnival. Last year it was $3,000.
“I have some emotional attachment to the fact that this is a 50-year event,” Key said. “It’s important that it continue. But I must admit, I am strongly torn that this is our job when in fact we have a Tourism Summerside, Downtown Summerside, chamber of commerce. We have the city with an economic development department and Rotary and legion are running the lobster carnival? That makes no sense to me either from our perspective as a service club or from the community’s perspective. It’s backwards. We should be there for support.”
Key said remarks made by Davies when he approached these different groups to help with the leadership role of lobster carnival were “We’re hoping for their participation.”
“Each of those organizations should be the ones leading this and running it, making the commitment, a year-round ongoing commitment so that it can be successful,” he said. “We do it a disservice.”
Rotarian Vance Bridges, a former lobster carnival president and long serving volunteer to that organization, suggested that if the fundraising cannot be increased, Rotary should consider bowing out.
“Rotary was one of the founding members of this (carnival) organization over 50 years ago,” Bridges said. “If there’s no support let’s have Rotary bow out and give it to somebody else or let it fold.”
Bridges said if the carnival can’t raise the financial support Rotary is accustomed to to help do its work, then it isn’t worth the effort.
“They say you’re doing a great thing for the city and for all the people,” he said. “That’s not good enough for me. I’m not prepared to continue to work if there’s not a $10,000 dividend at the end of the year for this club to do some of the other things that we do.”
Davies said all of the organizations mentioned by Key have expressed a willingness to be involved.
“What we need to do is to clarify just what that participation means,” he said. “We talked to the city about taking ownership. They’ll take some ownership. How far that goes, we’re not sure. Maybe we need to go back and see about paid staff. At the end of the day, even if Rotary wants to back out or be involved in a different way, we’ll still need volunteers.”