Farmington official’s survey looks at Founders Festival future

Farmington Mayor Pro Tem Joe LaRussa is circulating a survey that he hopes will give more people an opportunity to weigh in on the Greater Farmington Founders Festival’s long-term future.

The Greater Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce cancelled the 2020 festival due to COVID-19 concerns, and in June, announced it would no longer host the event. Since then, Farmington Mayor Sara Bowman has had meetings with community leaders to ensure the iconic event returns in 2021.

Council members have discussed the possibility that a community nonprofit could be created to support the festival into the future. Bowman said she was taken aback when she spotted the survey on Facebook.

“I have been doing my best to keep the entire Council and public up to speed on any and all Founders Festival discussions,” she said. “I am uncertain what the plan is for the information, as there is not currently an entity to process it.”

City-owned option

LaRussa’s survey includes questions about who should “own” the festival, why respondents attend the festival, and the best part of the festival. Options include having the city either take over the event or own the event and hire an outside entity to run it.

City Manager David Murphy has told council members that neither the city nor the Downtown Development Authority has the resources to take over. LaRussa said having the city council authorize funds and staff could allay some of those concerns.

“If the community wants a city-run festival, that has resource implications for the city, and the council needs to consider whether prioritizing the Founders Festival over a lot of other things the community has also said it wants, how are we going to solve that?” he said.

Armed with data

LaRussa said he drafted the survey because the only channel for public opinion has been through city council meetings.

“My goal was to give the majority of residents a chance to express their opinions,” he said. “As somebody who’s going to be in that discussion, I really want to be armed with some data about where the community stands with regard to the future of Founders Festival.”

LaRussa also plans to share data from the survey with council members.

“We have to take inventory of our available options,” he said. “For the long term, what is the best outcome for Farmington? I think we can only deliberate on that with some input from the community.”

Take the survey, which closes at the end of this month, here:

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