In a little over a month, downtown Smithville will come alive as thousands of tourists flock to town for the 41st annual Fiddlers Jamboree and Crafts Festival, Friday and Saturday July 6th & 7th.
(Click the following link for the 2012 Fiddlers Jamboree schedule)
Jack Barton, President and Coordinator of the festival, and members of the Jamboree committee meet regularly throughout the year making plans, but they will become even busier over the next five weeks.
In addition to hundreds of crafts displayed along many of the downtown streets, the Fiddler's Jamboree will once again offer plenty of delicious foods for sale at local food booths, lots of shade tree picking, and great on-stage music and dancing competitions.
Over the years, the Fiddlers Jamboree has allotted twelve food booth spaces to non-profit groups, for a fee. That number was expanded to fourteen spaces last year and the application fee to rent a space was raised from $350 to $500. But since only seven of the fourteen available spaces have been booked by non-profits this year, the Jamboree committee is looking to bring in a few for-profit or commercial food booths to fill the remaining spaces.
The fee to for-profits will be $1,000, while the fee to non-profits will be dropped back to $350. "We have fourteen spaces," said Barton. " Traditionally we always had twelve, but last year we expanded it to fourteen spaces. As of our deadline in March, we only had seven local non-profits apply. So we have seven empty booths that the Jamboree was faced with trying to fill. Given our rules, we couldn't fill them with local non-profits so we went straight to contractors. But in fairness to those non-profits who have tried to abide by the rules, and who had success last year as far as sales, we decided to take the $500 fee back down to $350. Those seven booths who have applied for this year will actually be getting a refund because they paid $500 for this year and we're going to drop it back to $350," said Barton.
With the large crowds that attend the festival each year, food booths have historically proven to be a good means of raising funds for local charities and other causes and Barton said the goal remains to give non-profits the first opportunity " Our goal has always been to have local and area non-profits as our food booths and to try and retain as much revenue in the county as possible of what's gathered during the Jamboree," said Barton. "Over time, we had realized that some booths were contracting with for-profit food booths and a lot of the money was escaping or leaving the county and the local non-profit was actually not getting very much of the profit. Two years ago we began to put into place that we did not want the local charities to actually contract with any for-profit booths so all the proceeds stay here. If there was any contracting to do, we, the Jamboree being a non-profit as well, would go directly to a contracted food booth, should the need arise. So new for 2012, we voted to change our food booth rules for the next year. The first right of refusal on all fourteen booths that we have would go to our local non-profits. If we don't receive enough applications to fill all fourteen booths to serve the Jamboree crowd, we would then take the excess booths that are not filled and go to contracted food booths at a much higher rate," said Barton.
As for craft booths, Barton said the Jamboree expects to be at about the same number this year as last, but a few spaces may be opened up to government or non-profit groups for information only booths. "It remains a challenge to draw people here since our rules are strictly for handmade crafts. I think as time evolves, its harder and harder to find people that are truly hand making their product," said Barton. "We have opened it up this year, where we will do a few information only booths as long as they are government or non-profit. So the Corps of Engineers may very well have a booth. We're going to approach the TWRA and others like those that set up at the DeKalb County Fair," he said.
"We have the full capacity of 220 craft booth spaces. Last year we had 185 craft booths," said Barton. " This year, so far we're at about 135. That's on par with where we were last year. It seems like a lot of people, more and more are last minute. They try and plan with how expensive fuel is or how far they travel and some people wait til the last minute to register to have a booth," he said.
Barton said the line-up of competitive events on stage will remain virtually unchanged this year. "The only thing that we've made a concession on. I think we changed the schedule two years ago to have youth square dancing on Friday night. Since Friday is typically a work day for most families, we are going to push the youth square dancing a little bit later so the parents have the opportunity to travel here with their children to participate in that. As our events timed out, we were seeing that the youth square dancing was sometimes needing to be started at three o'clock in the afternoon but that being a work day for most parents, the children weren't here yet. Last year, we manually on the fly moved the event later. This year we're actually going to move it in the rotation a little bit later," he said.
The Fiddlers Jamboree also is always looking for volunteers who want to pitch in and help. "We're always looking for volunteers and people who would like to come out," said Barton. No matter in what capacity. It could be somebody who helps during the event or somebody that helps during the year on our committee," said Barton.
Realizing that many people want to know more about how the Fiddlers Jamboree operates, Barton said a news release has been prepared that will hopefully address any questions they may have concerning the festival.
CLICK THE FOLLOWING PDF FILE TO READ ENTIRE FIDDLERS JAMBOREE NEWS RELEASE