Fulton County

City backs Railfest 2019, though questions remain

'We're excited for it to come back, if it does'
Gary Van Slyke of Mayfield during RailFest in 2006.
Gary Van Slyke of Mayfield during RailFest in 2006.

GLOVERSVILLE — The Common Council voted Tuesday to extend the city’s liability insurance to cover “Railfest 2019” and endorsed efforts to revive the annual event, but organizers say that doesn’t mean the event will happen.

Railfest, a community fundraising event in Trail Station Park that featured music, food, games and vendors, was held each summer, usually in August, for 13 years, before this year’s Railfest was canceled.

Event organizer Robin Wentworth said Railfest 2018 didn’t happen because of a lack of volunteers, and that could still be the case in 2019.

“I physically cannot commit to doing this with three people anymore, so that hasn’t changed,” she said. “We haven’t discussed anything.”

She said at least 15 volunteers would likely be needed to make the event happen, with more needed for the setup and takedown.

“This doesn’t just happen in one day,” she said.

Railfest almost didn’t happen in 2017, when Mayor Dayton King had to negotiate with the city’s insurance carrier to allow a “bounce house” on city property. The city insurance carrier allowed the attraction as long as the third-party vendor held the city harmless in the event of an accident.

Wentworth said the decision to cancel Railfest in 2018 was purely due to a lack of help, though.

“It didn’t have anything to do with the insurance,” she said. 

Wentworth, who previously served as 1st Ward council member for several terms, said Tuesday’s action by the Common Council was spearheaded by Gloversille 4th Ward Supervisor Charlie Potter; no Railfest Committee members were involved, and that committee controls the name and fundraising accounts for the event. 

“I didn’t even know he had gone to the council until I read it in the paper,” Wentworth said. “He’s the one telling everyone he has all these plans — and bands and everything — I don’t know this. That hasn’t been shared with me.”  

Potter spoke before the Common Council in July and again on Nov. 27 seeking support to revive Railfest. Tuesday night, he said he was pleased the council passed the supportive resolutions, though he was uncertain what role he might play in making it happen.

“For whatever reason, it didn’t transpire [in 2018], so I just thought this event was too important to the city and for people to enjoy it, so I got involved,” Potter said. “That’s part of my ward that I represent, so I just facilitated.”

Potter said he met with the Railfest committee, the mayor and some Common Council members to bring the resolutions to fruition.

Railfest served as a fundraiser for different organizations in the city, including the senior center and the Parkhurst Field Foundation. Over its 13 years, it raised approximately $50,000.

Wentworth said she believes the best fundraising year took in about $5,000, adding it takes a few thousand dollars to make the event happen. She said one cost factor could be if Potter wants to recruit paid bands to play at the festival.

Potter said one of his motivations in trying to get the Common Council to support Railfest now was to give event organizers more time to book musical acts.

“We like the concept of making Railfest 2019 a very musical event, but if you’re going to book these bands for August or early September, you need to do it this far ahead,” he said.

Wentworth said that, in addition to more volunteers, the committee will need money to pursue Potter’s vision. 

“We never paid bands,” she said. “Charlie wants to get all these bands, but I don’t know where he’s going to get the money to pay for them.” 

Potter said he first approached the council about Railfest in July, asking the city to consider applying for a Saratoga Arts Center grant. He said that could provide up to $5,000 for municipal concert events, but the council missed the September deadline to apply, he said. 

“Plan B is going to have to be sitting down with the committee and looking for some sponsorship opportunities or some other grants, which I’m eager to do,” he said.

Mayor King said he supports Railfest, though it will cost the city money. He said Gloversville spent about $4,000 in overtime for the Gloversville Christmas parade, and he expects a similar cost for Railfest. 

“The city was ready for it last year,” he said. “We’re excited for it to come back, if it does. It’s always difficult finding volunteers. I appreciate Mr. Potter taking the lead. If others want to reach out to him, and jump onto the committee, that’s great.” 

Councilman-at-large Vince DeSantis said he supports Railfest, but he wants to make certain it’s an annual event the city can count on. 

“It’s important to keep things like that going because, then, they become tradition,” he said.

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