North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Strawberry Festival belongs to the community

 


Dear Marysville Community,

Several weeks ago, people traveled from near and far to celebrate another jam-packed annual Strawberry Festival, shining the spotlight on the family-friendly Marysville and Tulalip communities.

For volunteers who serve on the Maryfest Board of Directors, the sponsoring organization since 1974, as well as the unsung heroes who give their time and energy to the various fun events at the Festival — from the Kiddies Parade, Talent show, Car Show and Market to the Grand Parade — no time of the year is busier than Festival week in June. That commitment carries through all seasons though, with the Festival’s float and Strawberry Festival Royalty representing our community and visiting other festivals on the parade circuit in the Pacific Northwest.

While there’s time for fun, there is also time for business. This month is when members of Maryfest Inc. elect Officers and Board of Directors for the coming year. Names are selected from the membership and the community to be nominated for the available positions. The past couple of years have seen an unprecedented number of Board vacancies, turnovers and departure of some well thought of and influential members that together suggests lapses in leadership, in governance or worse.

It hasn’t always been this way. Take it from me, a Maryfest Charter Member.

In 1974, it became apparent that the future of the Marysville Strawberry Festival was in question. The Marysville Chamber of Commerce had been in charge of the community celebration since Greater Marysville, a community/business organization, disbanded. The Chamber lacked people to continue sponsoring the event. The future of “our Festival” was in doubt.

Enter local businessman Bernie St. Onge, then owner of Slumber Ease Mattress Factory. He decided the show must go on. He gathered local businesspeople together and built an organization that would continue producing the event. I was honored to have been part of that group. I served on the Board of Directors for 27 years, two of which I served as President, and for 25 years I served as Managing Director and Grand Parade Director.

Maryfest Inc. was created on the foundation of “community pride, trust and involvement.” There was never a “closed door” policy. Anyone who wished to be involved was “always encouraged and welcomed.” Anyone with an interest in serving on the Board, serving as an Officer or chairing an event was welcome to do so — no questions asked, no interviews done. As a member, you were kept informed and provided monthly financial reports. Ideas for new events or ideas on how to make existing events better and more exciting were encouraged. With few exceptions, there was nothing that Maryfest Inc. did that is not for public knowledge. We were always available and willing to answer any questions that may arise. Now, a majority of the board members don’t live in Marysville.

People and events have changed, but the foundation on which Maryfest Inc. was built should never have changed. The Marysville Strawberry Festival is “our community Festival” and it belongs to “our community.” There should never be a time when persons who live, work and do business in our community be shut out from becoming a member, running for office or working on events. These are the very people who have the most invested in carrying the Festival forward successfully and keeping the values and policies put in place by the founders of Maryfest Inc. in 1974. To that end, I would ask “our community” to be part of the process. If you are a member, take a look at your choices this year, and if you care and feel it important to “our community,” please write in a candidate or attend the meeting on Aug. 16. Maryfest Inc. needs to return to the welcoming and open organization it once was.

Respect, accountability and honesty were always of the utmost importance and those values need to be brought back into play. In respect for those hundreds of people who worked so hard to save the Marysville Strawberry Festival in 1974, help bring “our community festival” back to where it belongs, in the hands of the Marysville community.

Sincerely,

Cheryl Deckard, Charter Member

Marysville

 

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