As we reported this past week, the Oswego Village Board is considering several changes to the village's popular annual Christmas Walk event. Over the past two decades we've watched as the Christmas Walk has grown and evolved into the village's second largest annual community event, right behind PrairieFest. Every December "The Walk" attracts several thousand of people--mostly area families with young children--to the village's downtown business district.
Among the proposed changes is a plan to combine the village's annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony and the Christmas Walk. Long-time area residents may recall that the tree lighting ceremony was part of the Christmas Walk, but over the years it became its own event. We like the idea of making the tree lighting part of Christmas Walk once again. As it now stands, the tree lighting--usually held the week after Christmas Walk--has felt more like an afterthought. Certainly combining the two events would allow village staff to focus all of their time and attention on Christmas Walk while also adding another fun activity to the event line-up.
Village officials are also considering charging what they describe as small vendor fees to for-profit operators of food trucks and other businesses who set up shop in the downtown and sell their wares during the Christmas Walk. Village officials noted that it is "standard practice" for the village to charge such fees to vendors at other community events. Village officials emphasized that they are not looking to charge vendor fees to downtown businesses.
We support the fees for the for profit vendors, but would oppose the charging of fees to any non-profit community groups, civic organizations or vendors. The vendor fees are a logical and reasonable source of revenue that the village should impose to help recover at least a portion of the cost of putting on the Christmas Walk.
Another proposed event change that we are concerned about, however, is the charging of a small fee to purchase wristbands for admission to some kids activities, including the ice rink and inflatables. One of the big attractions of Christmas Walk has been that it is a free family event. We believe it should be kept that way. In addition, we believe the wristband requirement would prove difficult to enforce given the dark, winter conditions and the differing locales and layouts of the kids activities.
Putting on a large community event like Christmas Walk costs thousands of dollars in staff planning time, police protection and other costs. Village officials should be commended for looking at ways to generate revenues to pay at least a portion of those expenses to limit the cost to taxpayers while at the same time making it a fun and sustainable event for years to come.