By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN A lack of people willing to step up and commit their time to planning and working at Howard Lake’s 35th annual Good Neighbor Days events has caused the Fired Up Lions to step back for at least a year.
“We don’t have the people willing to commit to going into the (Fired Up Lions) committee,” Howard Lake Fire Chief Tom Diers said at a Good Neighbor Days planning meeting Tuesday.
The Fired Up Lions is a committee of fire department and Howard Lake Lions members who have worked together for about 10 years to plan and coordinate many of the events during Good Neighbor Days, including the tent, bands, wrestling, the beer garden, and the burger stand.
Noting that young people are not stepping up to fill positions, Diers said the Howard Lake Fire Department has decided to only focus on fire department-related events for the Saturday of Good Neighbor Days.
Diers also noted he was getting a lot of conflict as chief over the issue, with fighting among the members of the department, and he had to be concerned about morale.
Some of the events the fire department is still planning are the pork chop dinner, a waterball tournament, an open house, fire truck rides, and to participate in the parade on Sunday, according to Diers.
“We’re not dissolving the Fired Up Lions, we are keeping the money in (the Fired Up Lions fund) so we can pick it up again in the next year or so,” Diers said.
Although the fire department will be stepping back, Diers assured the Good Neighbor Days planning committee that it is willing to share information with any group willing to step up and coordinate the events.
He also assured the planning committee there is not an issue between the Lions and the fire department, there simply were not enough firefighters willing to commit their time to this year’s events.
Because some of the events planned by the Fired Up Lions require up-front money, Diers was asked whether the organization would be willing to lend seed money to another group.
“Anything could be put on the table,” Diers said.
Because a Lions member was not present at the planning meeting at that time, options were discussed for what could be done to compensate for the Fired Up Lions’ lack of participation this year.
Kelly Hinnenkamp suggested that the city provide the beer wagon, but it would have to be brought before the council.
When brainstorming other organizations that are big enough to take on some of the tasks, the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted FFA, National Honor Society, and After Prom Party, as well as church groups were suggested.
Jeanne Brose, a member of the Good Neighbor Days planning committee, asked what would happen if the group that stepped forward decided it wanted to continue to coordinate events year after year.
The fire department would be fine if another group wanted to continue with the planning in upcoming years, Diers said, noting the fire department could continue to only focus on its own events.
Diers was also asked about using the fire barn for the carnival games for the children, which is a big draw each year.
“It might interfere with the open house, but we’ll have to talk about it (as a department),” Diers said.
When Lion Darrin McAlpine arrived at the Good Neighbor Days planning meeting after the fire department members had left, he was asked how much involvement the Lions planned to have this year.
The wrestling, which Hinnenkamp noted attracted a lot of people to Good Neighbor Days that wouldn’t normally attend, is something provided by the Fired Up Lions each year.
Last year, the Fired Up Lions paid out $1,000 to the French Lake Wrestlers Association, which costs approximately $2,500, McAlpine said, noting that event would be questionable.
“We can handle the beer. The problem is doing both the burgers and the beer (without assistance from the fire department),” McAlpine said.
“The band and the tent come with the beer, right?” Hinnenkamp asked.
Nothing is booked as far as the band or tent, and that is something McAlpine said he had to check with the Lions about.
When asked if the Lions would be willing to allow another organization to use the burger stand, he said that would be fine.
At last year’s Good Neighbor Days, more than 2,000 burgers were sold, and three to four people need to be cooking at all times, McAlpine said.
It was suggested that maybe the burger stand could only be open one day of the event.
Another suggestion was to focus Friday night activities at Memorial Park, considering that’s where the Orphans’ tournament and fireworks take place.
It was noted that the big events on Friday last year did not turn out as planned, with the KRWC Roadshow not showing up, and the kiddie parade only attracting a handful of youngsters.
The fireworks show will not be affected by the Fired Up Lions stepping back, because it is sponsored by Citizens Alliance Bank and the city.
The only event affected Friday evening is the burger stand, noted planning committee member Marilyn Ringold.
Because Good Neighbor Days occurs in June, when there are a lot of weddings planned, the planning committee would need to know as soon as possible about the tent for the event, said member Randy Heuer.
“Well, this doesn’t sound as bad as I thought it was going to sound,” Ringold said.
Many events throughout Good Neighbor Days weekend are sponsored and planned by other organizations, and will still be taking place.
New events from last year, such as the golf tournament and the bean bag tournament, will also still be taking place.
Speaking from a logistical standpoint, Heuer questioned whether this was the year to bring all the financials for Good Neighbor Days into one account.
McAlpine noted that the Fired Up Lions spent $18,000 for the event last year. “It takes a lot of up-front money to do it,” McAlpine said.
“There is not another group in town that has that amount of money up-front,” Heuer noted.
“We’ve been racking our brains to think of another group of volunteers, and we can’t think of one,” said McAlpine.