Hayward Zucchini Festival

Today I stopped by my mom’s house to find my annual mailer from the South Hayward Lions Club about the Zucchini Festival.  Normally it’s a great reminder that the festival is coming up and there’s usually an opportunity to purchase advance tickets or ticket packages.  This year, it was a bit different.

In addition to the normal information with dates, times, and performer listings, there was a letter from Rich Essi, the General Manager and President of the South Hayward Lions Club.  It read:

“Friends of The Hayward Zucchinni [sic] Festival,

“The Mayor and The Hayward City Council in its infinite wisdom has decided to reallocate the funding for the South Hayward Lions Club to the Hayward Arts Council. The Mayor and the Council also decided to award The Zucchini Festival thirteen hundred dollars, it takes sixty eight thousand dollars to put on the festival. We need donations to help continue the Hayward Zucchini Festival and The 4th of July Celebration.

“Sincerely,
Rich Essi
General Manager
President of South Hayward Lions Club
Lion’s Tax ID #237095321”

I can feel the anger and frustration that Mr. Essi experienced as he wrote this letter.  Although I may disagree with many of the decisions that the City’s leaders make, I do not believe that Mr. Essi wrote a letter that was appropriate to the situation.  His letter was negative, inflammatory, and only really made me think “Sucks to be them.”  Also, looking at it from a Council Member’s point of view, I might wonder why we’re even giving them any money if they’re going to be rude about accepting it.

I understand that the Lions are a service organization that can do good things in a community while the Arts Council exists to educate about and promote art in the community.  However, in a time when the City’s budget shortfalls have forced furloughs and reduced operating hours for city services, I find it difficult to justify spending even $1,300 of my tax dollars on a fundraiser (aka glorified party) let alone the $68,000 Mr. Essi claims this thing requires.  I want to know what other options Mr. Essi has pursued for funding.

Has he attempted any sort of partnership with the Southland Mall?  Their parking lot is empty for a large part of the year.  The Festival could be used to draw customers over to the mall.

He could also choose a smaller location and scale the Festival back a bit.  Smaller area means fewer people, which will require fewer cops to police the crowd.

How did he come up with his pricing structure for the Zucchini Festival’s tickets?  What about raising the price of the tickets from $5 to $8 but if you buy a $10 ticket it comes with a coupon book that can be used within the Festival?  Or a ticket that includes pre-paid food and non-alcoholic beverages?

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I might have been inclined to donate money to save the Zucchini Festival, but the letter put a bad taste in my mouth.  If you’re going to ask for money from people who may not have much to give, you have to be welcoming, positive and informative.  Mr. Essi needs a lesson in schmoozing the public if he wants the Festival to continue, because his letter made me want to run in the opposite direction.

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