Operation of Fiddlers Jamboree Explained to Mayor and Aldermen

October 2, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Who is in charge of the Smithville Fiddler's Jamboree?

That is a question that has been raised in recent weeks by concerned citizens who feel the Jamboree has become an annual event, run by a few, who no longer seeks or welcomes input from others in the community, particularly groups who helped organize it in the early 1970's.

The issue was brought up by citizen Sherry Bush at a recent city council meeting and the Mayor and Board of Aldermen agreed to ask officials of the Fiddler's Jamboree to appear before the board to answer questions.

Monday night, Nolan Turner, Co-Chairman of the Souvenir Booklet and Official Photographer, read a statement on behalf of the Jamboree Committee. The attorney for the Jamboree, Frank Buck, also made some comments.

In the statement, Turner explained that Neither the City of Smithville nor DeKalb County runs the Jamboree. "It is like any other civic club or organization. It is a self governing body. The Jamboree has a board of directors which is elected by the members of the Jamboree Committee. No member of this group receives any money for their work. It is an all volunteer group. Members are made up of volunteer workers who are voted into the organization. Members are appointed to head the various sections such as Tabulation, Registration, Crafts, etc. Each of the Chairmen selects a group of people who are willing to work with them on their committee. This adds up to about 60 to 65 people who work to put on the Jamboree. These people work for about 18 hours each day during the Jamboree with the exception of the Coordinator who is on the grounds for the entirety of the show."

"The Jamboree became a 501 (C) (3) in 1990 according to the Internal Revenue Service and has an Employer Identification Number on file."

"The Jamboree was chartered with it's by-laws in 1989 and was registered with the Tennessee Secretary of State in 1989. It has been reporting each year to the Secretary of State a list of the Officials (President, Secretary, and all other Board members)"

"The Jamboree reports to the IRS on a 990 Form as a 501 (C) (3) organization which is filled out by Tom Janney, CPA."

"The expense for putting on the Jamboree is about $60,000 to $62,000 per year. All of which is paid by the Jamboree out of funds they raise each year. Any remaining funds are used to start the next year's Jamboree.'

"The Jamboree bought the stage and paid for it with a grant that was obtained by the late State Senator Tommy Burks and State Representative Frank Buck. The Jamboree organization has full control of the stage and how it is used. The Jamboree owns the equipment needed from electrical boards down to the trash cans on the streets."

"The Jamboree brings in tourists who spend money and help improve the local economy."

"The following clubs, organizations, or churches have benefitted directly by having food booths at the Jamboree: DeKalb County 4-H Club, Smithville Rotary Club, Smithville Church of God, DCHS Band Boosters, Boy Scout Troop 347, DeKalb Soil Conservation District, DeKalb County T-Ball/Coach Pitch Association, St. Gregory's Catholic Church, DCHS Football Cheerleaders, Legion of Confederacy, Volunteer Fire Department, and Smithville Lion's Club."

"The Jamboree provides an opportunity for these local groups to make a good sum of money. We allow only local non-profit groups to have food booths that are within the Jamboree grounds. There is a waiting list of groups desiring a booth space should another group decide not to retain their booth. We do not allow commercial food booths within the Jamboree boundaries."

Concerned citizen and former Smithville Mayor Waniford Cantrell questioned why representatives of the original sponsoring groups were no longer part of the Jamboree Board of Directors as is stated in the Fiddler's Jamboree Souvenir Program Booklet. Under Smithville Jamboree History, the Souvenir Program Book states that " The sponsoring organizations are the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Merchants Association, Rotary Club, and the Smithville Fire Department. A representative of each organization serves on the Board of Directors and the Jamboree Committee". Cantrell says the Jamboree was once sponsored and underwritten by all these organizations but "somewhere along the line this all got changed and nobody knows how."

Phillip (Fluty) Cantrell, who is President of the Downtown Merchants Association, says he has not been to a Jamboree Committee meeting in several years.

Buck suggested that if anyone has a concern, he or she should voice it with the Jamboree Committee at one of their meetings, and put aside personality conflicts. Buck says he was under the impression that some of this controversy now may be due in part to conflicts that have arisen because the community chorus was denied access to the Jamboree stage on the Thursday evening prior to the start of the Festival on Friday.

Faye Fuqua, director of the chorus, told Buck that she "objected" to that assertion. However, Fuqua did say that she believes some who want to be more involved in the Jamboree aren't treated right. "There's lots of issues that need to be worked through. We don't have a voice in this festival that many of us have worked long and hard in for some thirty years. We're apart of this too. We are not treated respectfully. It's killing the joy and the spirit of the Jamboree".

Steven Ashburn of Ashburn's Alley Café also registered a complaint about the booths which set up on the streets blocking the front of the downtown businesses. " My concern is bringing in the tents that block the store fronts of the local merchants, who bring in tax revenue, 365 days a year to this city. The merchants downtown need all the respect that the Jamboree and city can give them."

Sherry Bush, speaking again Monday night, says she wants to know who is accountable and liable in the event of a tragedy. Bush claims she became very concerned after hearing that someone got in their car during this year's Jamboree and tried to drive from the First Baptist Church parking lot down Fourth Street into the crowd. "We just want to be assured that there's some safety measures in place somewhere."

As for liability insurance, former Mayor Waniford Cantrell said at one time, the Jamboree function was added to the policy of the city. "If someone slips on a banana peel, they won't sue the Jamboree committee because that committee doesn't own the sidewalks. The city owns the sidewalks."

Cantrell also asked the city board to consider charging the Jamboree Committee to recoup the cost of the overtime the city is required to pay workers for extra time put in on Jamboree weekend. "Each year the police department, the sanitation department, and the public service people work overtime. As a taxpayer, I'd like to see the city council bill the Jamboree for those overtime costs."

Alderman and former Smithville Mayor Cecil Burger seemed to have a different point of view. "Our biggest problem is our men already have their 40 hours in before it (Jamboree) starts and we have to pay overtime or time and a half. It creates some expense but it's worth it in the long run I think."

Alderman Steve White says it would not be fair for the city to single out the Jamboree for this expense when other organizations also use the city's streets for special events. "If we're going to charge one, we need to charge them all." Plus, he says, thanks to the Jamboree, the city reaps the benefit of extra sales tax revenue from tourism each year.

On the issue of the Jamboree's financial records, Buck insists that they are open to the public.

However, Chris Cantrell, local attorney, says CPA Tom Janney has refused him the Jamboree records, fearing it would anger the Coordinator of the Jamboree Neal Dudney.

Buck responded saying "If somebody would tell me what the records are being requested at a reasonable time, they are entitled to see them."

Chris Cantrell also seemed to suggest that the Jamboree's tax exempt status could be subject to a challenge but advised the city board to safeguard some things to preserve it. "I would ask for a copy of the tax return that is filed. They (Jamboree Committee) are required by law to list all the expenses they incur. I would also have some agreement that says you (Jamboree Committee) can use our streets. You (Mayor and Aldermen) have a responsibility to the people you represent. In this agreement, you would want to be named as an insured. That's just good business. All these things will help preserve the openness."

No action was taken Monday night, but Mayor Taft Hendrixson said " I will ask our city attorney to check on our insurance for these special occasions."

Alderman Tonya Sullivan added that "There's issues that cannot be resolved in front of this board. I think we can hold them (Jamboree Committee) accountable for liability insurance and things of that nature, and they are required to be open, but I think there are some direct issues that need to be taken up with the Jamboree committee. I think questions about the tax returns, an agreement between the city and the Jamboree Committee, the insurance issue, and the overtime billing, all of that can be worked on by our city attorney."

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