As a St. John’s native, I have many fond memories of Regatta Day. My mom brought me to the lake as a little girl to play games of chance, buy some tickets, watch the races and enjoy the food.
I’ve spent the last five years on the opposite side of the booth, desperately trying to raise money for the non-profit organization I am involved in. When I began fundraising, the Regatta seemed to be such a great endeavour. Who wouldn’t want to support a charity at the Regatta? What I’ve come to realize is the Regatta has turned into a disgusting commercial event.
To start off, preference of ground space is given to vendors based on the number of years they have been participating — whether or not the vendor is a charity is irrelevant.
After four tedious years of being in a spot way down the lake on a slope where no one could see us, I contacted the Regatta committee in March 2013 to talk about Year 5. I laid my cards on the table. My group is a charity that depends on this fundraiser. I informed them that I would be willing to send in my application and payment five months in advance if it meant getting a better location.
Someone replied to my email and told me they would work with me to secure a better spot, there was no need to pay early. Wonderful, I thought, this year we’re going to be treated fairly!
As the old expression goes, don’t count your chickens until they’ve hatched. I filled out the application early in the summer and was told payment wouldn’t be necessary until they figured out where we would be. When it got to be a week before the Regatta and I still hadn’t heard, I made a trip to the boathouse. “The ground won’t be staked until Sunday, we can’t let you know until then.” Huh?
When I questioned this arrangement, I was told by a committee member that they can’t just give away prime locations of vendors who have been participating for 80 years and give it to me when I was only around for four or five years. I don’t know about you, but to me, this isn’t good enough. Vendors should be required to make deposits on their ground space well in advance so the committee can figure out who is coming back.
I was initially irritated with the Regatta committee until I realized that these people are just doing their jobs — it’s the system that is flawed.
I understand the old adage “first come, first served” but it’s silly to expect this to work. If people have had booths for generations and they still have spaces that are the cream of the crop, no one else will ever get a chance. In my opinion, charities and non-profits should be given consideration. My group gives 100 per cent of its profits to the organization, yet we get the worst circumstances. By giving charities a break, the Regatta would represent a sense of community instead of representing the greed of personal vendors looking to make a quick buck by charging people $6 for a hotdog and $5 for a three-minute horseback ride.
I walked around the lake the night the ground was staked and saw the same individual’s name in at least five spaces (none of which were for charity) — that’s gluttony.
While the Regatta is primarily about the races, it has developed into a family event; a carnival-type of day for all to enjoy. I’ve had parents come to my booth and say, “Oh good, you guys are for charity, we’ll support you.” They want to show their children that my group and other charities raise money to benefit worthy causes and the community.
My group also prices things reasonably so families can afford to bring their kids without having to bring the bank behind them.
As I’ve said before, the problems that exist between the Regatta committee and the vendors are directly related to an outdated system. Perhaps the way things are organized worked 20 years ago, but I can assure you it’s not working now. It’s 2013 and the times are a changin’. I think it’s time for the Regatta to change, too.
M.A Clements writes from St. John’s.