Friday, April 22, 2016

Summerfest takes an entire community of support - By Michelle Libby

Every year volunteers from Windham gather to organize a daylong event with the one goal of providing a venue of “fun family entertainment” that will help benefit non-profits and bring recognition and pride to the town.

Summerfest, held just after school ends in June, is a town event where locals come to see and be seen, eat some amazing food prepared by local non-profits (frozen hot chocolate, anyone?), play fun interactive games (frog jump), and talk to local businesses in the business expo. There is live entertainment going all day, a parade, amusement rides and all of it is capped off with fireworks at dusk. There is nothing more exciting than seeing the community spread out across the grounds, laughing, playing and waiting with anticipation for the first whoosh of fireworks. 

Each year, the committee is tasked with raising between $25,000 and $30,000 to keep the event the same size. To grow, more money will be needed to bring in bigger entertainment acts and more spectacular fireworks displays, which are two of the most expensive line items in the budget. 

Summerfest is run by all volunteers. No one on the committee takes money for their time and efforts. The money goes toward logistics, tents, chairs, parade entrants like the Shriners, entertainment, electrician, porta potties and fireworks, according to Summerfest committee chair Kelly Mank. Leftover money is donated to certain non-profits, like DARE. Summerfest starts with a minimal budget of donations made after the last year’s event. 

Deb Matthews, a lifelong Windham resident and the chair of off of the booths and parade, remembers Old Home Days fondly. Old Home Days was the community event in the early 1990s and before.
Matthews volunteers because, “This is my way of giving back to the community. This is a family oriented event that you can bring your kids, grandkids and grandparents to. It’s multi-generational,” she said. Summerfest is put on by the Summerfest committee, Town of Windham, RSU14 and Windham EMS, fire and police.  

Growing the event has been difficult. They continue to take suggestions on how to make it better, but without the support of the community, the event will remain what it is. Suggestions like providing tents for all vendors selling food, so there is a uniform look and people will know what is being offered. 
“We want Summerfest to be the one stop place for non-profits, so this can be their major fundraiser,” said Mank. “Better entertainment will being out more people, thus the non-profits make more money.” There are still booths available in all three booth areas, community, business and craft fair. 

“Every year is better,” said Matthews. “Every year we get closer to what I remember as a child.” Matthew agrees that the biggest challenge is fundraising and getting volunteers to help. “People are so busy nowadays. They just don’t have time.”

The carnival rides pay to be a part of Summerfest, donating a portion of ticket sales back to the organization. The committee is organizing more county fair type events from pie eating contests to tug o’ war. 

We are always looking for volunteers, one or two on the committee for fundraising and one to organize the parade. If taking on an entire project is too much, Matthews suggested helping make phone calls or seek out donations from five businesses or ask them to be in the business expo. On the day of Summerfest, volunteers are needed on the parade route. 

There is a way to help Summerfest besides volunteering. The committee has set up a Go Fund Me page to raise money for the event at or donate in jars that have been placed around the community. 

“It really is a community event. We want everyone to be excited for Summerfest. We want everyone to want to bring their grandkids back in 20 years,” said Mank. 

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