The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

July 13, 2013

Volunteers needed

By Katie Dahlstrom
Assistant Editor

---- — CLINTON — Imagine the holidays in Clinton without thousands of lights sparkling against the night sky in Eagle Point Park. It's a scenario the Symphony of Lights board doesn't want to realize, but fears is closer than ever because of the declining number of volunteers.

The annual holiday lights festival hosted by the Jaycees has seen dwindling volunteer turnout for setup and tear down of the event. Partnered with a high number of board vacancies, the current board members worry what could become of the Symphony of Lights if the community does not become more involved.

Marketing chairman Jason Balinski said not holding the event for a year to regroup and garner more community support was suggested at a recent board meeting. While it's not a serious consideration for this winter's event, Balinski said the fact that board members floated the idea to suspend the event shows their frustration.

"I wouldn't say we're quite on the verge of giving it up like we did with the Fourth of July festival, but having seen that people picked up the Fourth of July festival, it would be nice to get people to pick us up before we fail to provide as good of an event as we have in the past," he said.

Work for the Symphony of Lights starts to gain momentum around July. Setup occurs for six weekends before the event debuts and tear down reaches into March.

For the past two years, the Ashford University baseball team made up 75 percent of the setup volunteers. The event's success also is tied to volunteer electricians. Without these volunteers, organizers said they would be hard-pressed to get the event up to snuff in time for Thanksgiving.

"We really want to maintain the quality of the event we put on. We don't really want to just put out 50 percent of the lights and have people upset that we only had 50 percent of the lights out. We'd rather put 100 percent up and have a successful event," Balinski said.

Reuel Lawburgh, the display and volunteer chairman, echoed Balinski's concerns. He said the event has no shortage of attendees, but needs more people to contribute in the weeks beforehand to ensure it can operate at 100 percent.

"We go back and forth. We want to put the show on. People come from far away to see it, it's a big driver for our scholarship program and it's a tradition with a lot of families, but that lack of volunteers has made it difficult," Lawburgh said.

In addition to volunteers to help in the weeks before and after the event, new Symphony of Lights board members are also in high demand. Nine of the 15 board member positions are vacant, which has left the current board members taking on more responsibilities and dedicating larger chunks of time to throwing a successful event.

Board members are looking for anyone who wants to volunteer, join the board or get involved in any capacity in order to secure the event's continued success.

"I'm of the opinion that if we got a large influx of people to help now, it would save the event for years to come because inevitably some of the people would gain the appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes and the attachment to the pride they get from having it become a success," Balinski said.

For more information on volunteering or joining the board, visit Symphonyoflights.org or contact Balinski at jjbalins@gmail.com.