Borrego Days 2017? Possibly No
Last updated 2/9/2017 at 12:56pm
Crowds have been flocking to the desert for the annual Borrego Days Desert Festival (BDDF) for fifty-two years. As the days’ have passed, the community has grown and the interest in what began as a humble celebration of a towns fortunes and community spirit, has turned in to a tourist attraction for Southern California. Despite the increased interest through media and the hard work of the Chamber of Commerce and its team of faithful volunteers, the festival may have become a victim of its own success and destined to be nothing more than a fond memory in the history books.
The announcement by Linda Haddock at the Jan. 1, Chamber of Commerce board meeting, that 2017 may not see a Borrego Days due to lack of funding and support, will split opinions of the town. It didn’t take much for residents to lose the traditions of the Grapefruit Festival and the situation surrounding its demise is brutally echoed by the stirrings of concern for BDDF’s own fate. When asked, one local resident described the loss of the Grapefruit Festival as “People lost interest in supporting it. There were so many other things taking place in town and it became unprofitable. Circle of Art took over and there is Borrego Days, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It all got too much.” The same thoughts are now being expressed for Borrego Days. The same supporters come through every year with financial assistance. Some long-term donors have passed on and their offspring are not as interested in the town, some contributors just can’t or don’t want to be a part of the annual request for money and donations. Every month there are raffles for Sundowners, the request for sponsorship and the need for fundraising. Many of the local merchants resent the intrusion of outside vendors setting up in Christmas Circle and there are part-time residents disgruntled by the amount of traffic descending on their quiet desert retreat.
For others, it marks the start of the season and a welcome boost to the tills that have stayed quiet over the hot summer months. Cinco de Mayo is no longer celebrated in the town, despite the majority of residents being of Mexican descent and the boost it brings to the businesses. The same sadness and confusion was felt when the Miss Borrego Springs Pageant was split from Borrego Days, forcing some families to choose which event to attend due to restricted finances.
Focus has been moved on to artistic pursuits and the Borrego Film Festival. Is it the natural evolution of the town, second homers and financially stable individuals who prefer the quieter pursuits rather than the rambunctious BDDF visitors? Is it that the Film Festival is still relatively small, the parking isn’t an issue, the event is held in a particular location and the clientele have more disposable income? The resorts and local business were popular during its course. Arguably the same could be said for Borrego Days, however the inclusion of vendors at Christmas Circle, allows people to remain where the action is rather than sat at a table tucked out of sight.
For many of the snowbirds, the event isn’t considered to be relevant to their demographic. They come to the desert to enjoy their golf and to get away from their main lives. Tourists, cyclists and runners, cause increased traffic, noise, people and a disruption to what they consider their second home. The quieter voices come from the people who consider it their home, their only home but are not necessarily in a position to provide as much financial assistance to the town as others.
With the eyes of Borrego and California firmly watching what will happen next, the current situation is that Borrego Days is showing a $41,000 deficit due to broken promises on donations. “The identity of the town will be hurt,” stated Patrick Sampson, President of the Chamber of Commerce, “this (BDDF) is a magnet, the start of the season. It will be sad if we have to cancel, defer or postpone until 2018.” A final decision won’t be made until March. In the meantime, residents will have to decide if they want the event to continue, become smaller or if it is a chance to go in a different direction and pursue alternative ways of allowing the town to survive for everyone’s betterment and enjoyment or tick a long for the benefit of a few.
In other chamber news, three new board members have been voted on to the board:- Mary Purvis, local interior decorator and principal, Purvis Construction has been appointed Treasurer. Jake Perry, co-owner of J&T Tire Pros and Carlos Sotelo, co-owner, El Borrego Restaurant have been welcomed in to seats vacated by Paige Rogowski and Dave Duncan. The retail board has been disbanded due to a lack of participants. The chamber will look in to an alternative way of bringing retail owners on board to discuss issues. Borrego Water Coalition will meet Feb. 2 at 4:30. p.m. The next chamber meeting will be Tues. Feb 14 at 8:00a.m.