Councilwoman tries to organize local 4th event - Tucson Local Media: Pima Pinal

Councilwoman tries to organize local 4th event

Time could be too short to stage party

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Posted: Tuesday, May 26, 2009 11:00 pm

The prospect for a formal, public Fourth of July celebration in Oro Valley this year looks slim.

The Greater Oro Valley Arts Council had intended to organize its annual party at a new location, Oro Valley Marketplace, with help from shopping center owner Vestar Development Company and other business partners.

Those plans fell through.

"We lost all of our corporate funding," said GOVAC's Kate Marquez.

Marquez said cable TV provider Comcast had signed on as the marquee sponsor, but recently chose to lend its support to Marana's event after the Oro Valley Town Council decided not to help fund the Fourth of July event this year.

GOVAC has agreed to help Citadel Broadcasting with its Independence Day party at Rillito Raceway Park at First Avenue and River Road. Despite previously published reports stating the group would put on the event, Marquez said GOVAC would simply help organize volunteers.

"It's not our event," Marquez said.

Oro Valley residents would have one local option for the Fourth, the party held each year at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador. Otherwise, residents will have to leave the town to attend a public Fourth of July celebration.

"That's really not the message that we want to send," said Oro Valley Town Councilwoman Salette Latas.

Latas said the town doesn't want people to have to leave to celebrate the holiday, and she worries about the risk of drinking and driving.

The councilwoman has been trying to organize a Fourth of July event in the town, possibly at Cañada del Oro Riverfront Park, where the party has been held for many years.

Latas said she's talked with the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce about lending a hand with an event, and has spoken also with GOVAC.

"We're always here to support arts and cultural events," Marquez said.

Still, she said with July fast approaching, it would be difficult to organize an event that potentially thousands of people would attend.

"My concern is that people are going to show up at the park anyway," Latas said. She said the police intend to have officers at the park on the holiday in anticipation of people showing up to watch the El Conquistador fireworks display.

Latas said she hopes to talk with officials at Sun Tran about arranging transportation, and to see if any local artists or performers would be willing to donate their time to provide entertainment.

Asked if the town itself would fund the event, Latas was uncertain.

"That would be tough, because we're outside of the funding cycle and money is really tight," Latas said.

GOVAC has organized the Fourth of July party with Oro Valley for more than a decade. Back when the group first teamed up with Oro Valley, the town and some of GOVAC's founders came together with the mutual goal of holding an event for the entire town.

"It was literally one of the things that helped form GOVAC," Marquez said.

Since that time, the town has helped foot the bill for the annual event, which included entertainment, equipment rental and police protection. GOVAC made up the difference through corporate and individual donations and helped staff the event with volunteers.

In February, the town council voted not to fund the annual Independence Day party.

"I really feel like this is GOVAC cutting to the front of the line and circumventing the community funding process," Latas said at the Feb. 4 meeting. Council members K.C. Carter, Bill Garner and Barry Gillaspie also voted against the funding request.

At the time, GOVAC sought $50,000 from the town for the Fourth of July. Oro Valley Town Manager David Andrews later lowered the town's commitment to $25,000.

The council also rejected GOVAC's request for funding last June during the budget process. GOVAC asked to have the 2008 and 2009 Fourth of July events funded at the same time because of the schedule imposed by the new community funding process.

Marquez said the Fourth of July event takes months worth of planning to coordinate. With the budget likely not finalized until late June or even early July, planning the event would be impossible.

Group officials had hoped to get funding in 2008 for the 2009 event. In subsequent years, then, the town would fund the event a year in advance.

Latas said she hopes to still get enough support from the community to make an event, even a scaled back one, possible.

"The way I envision it," Latas said, "is that it's really low key."

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