The Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce decided to no longer organize the vendors and performances, and First National Bank decided to end its seven-year run of operating the salsa competition earlier this month.
Murrell Foster, executive director of the chamber, said the festival has grown since it started 14 years ago, but the number of volunteers has declined.
“That event takes a lot of help and a lot of support,” Linda Richter of First National Bank said. “We’ve done it for the past seven years, and we just think it’s time for new blood.”
Although the festival isn’t until spring, the process of making it happen lasts almost all year. Foster estimated it would require a team of 25-30 volunteers to keep the vending and entertainment aspects going.
The salsa judging competition is run separately and would ideally need a group 10 volunteers, according to Richter.
“The salsa making competition is the heart of everything; it gives us the right to call it a Salsa Fest,” Foster said.
Foster said aspiring volunteers would need to meet with the mayor of Three Rivers, the city council and the city manager, then get on the council’s agenda to discuss and approve the new plans.
Foster said they traditionally start soliciting sponsors in the fall – which raises about half of the $55,000 needed to cover publicity, decorations and keeping the festival alive. This year’s festival brought in 75 vendors and approximately 7,000-8,000 visitors.
Foster said he would traditionally have all the music performances booked by March 1.
“I’ve always operated under the premise that if there is good entertainment, the people will come, and this year we had the biggest crowd and most vendors,” Foster said.
Foster said the latest a new group of volunteers would need to start actually organizing is by the first of the year. Although the festival isn’t until April, he said it takes time to get the word out about the festival and develop public interest.
As for the salsa judging competition, the group would be responsible for sending out registration forms to previous contestants, lining up judges, preparing the judging and tasting tables, keeping chips for dipping on hand, and counting the ballots for the People’s Choice division. This group also announces the winners and hands out the plaques and cash prizes.
The competition’s registration forms are traditionally mailed out in February.
“When you say salsa competition, it sounds simple, but it’s not,” Richter said.
Richter also said last year’s volunteers from the bank would be willing to help next year’s group learn how to run the salsa competition.
“The First National Bank staff would be glad to help go over everything with them; we don’t want to dump it on somebody,” Richter said. “We would be there the first year to help train.”