Camp Verde considers future of Cornfest, Fort Verde Days, Pecan and Wine Festival

VVN/Bill Helm

VVN/Bill Helm

CAMP VERDE – Once upon a time, the Town of Camp Verde would spend as much as $250,000 in a calendar year to put on Fort Verde Days, Cornfest and its other signature events.


The truth is somewhere in the middle, as the Town of Camp Verde and its community volunteers decide how to step in for Camp Verde Promotions’ leadership who has run the town’s signature events for nearly 10 years. (Photos by Bill Helm)

Lately, it’s been more like $10,000.

The answer, as they say, is generally somewhere in the middle.

Wednesday, the Camp Verde Council agreed that Economic Development Director Steve Ayers should sit down with the community’s volunteer groups and figure out what it would take to put on the Spring Heritage Pecan and Wine Festival in March – as well as look beyond the Town’s first annual event of the year.


At a Wednesday work session, the Town of Camp Verde heard pleas from several of its volunteer groups, not just for financial help, but for “boots to the ground,” as one well-known volunteer so succinctly put things.

With the recent announcement that Nikki Miller, Carlie Androus and Bobbie Tennant will continue their involvement with Camp Verde Promotions but no longer be part of the volunteer organization’s leadership, the Town of Camp Verde agreed Wednesday to be part of the process to deliver the town’s annual signature events.

“It’s a miracle you ladies were all able to do it,” council member Robin Whatley said. “We are not Camp Verde without Fort Verde Days. And the other events also speak to our heritage.”

Whatley also said that though she believes the Town “needs to take it on again, but not to the same degree as before.”

What part the Town will fill, is still being discussed, according to Camp Verde Town Manager Russ Martin.

“It’s not a negotiation,” Martin said Friday. “It’s a transition. How do we transition to the next cycle of volunteers?”

Martin said Friday that volunteer groups have run the events the past several years “has worked – to an extent.”

“Historically, it’s been groups to pull these things off,” Martin said. “Fort Verde Days existed 30 years before the Town [municipal government] existed.”

Though Martin said that the Town’s involvement is inevitable, he’s “going to try my best to not make it a Town-centric issue.”

“It really needs to be volunteer driven,” Martin said. “But what can the Town bring to the table?”

Boots to the ground

It takes two entities to run events such as Cornfest, Fort Verde Days and the Spring Heritage Pecan and Wine Festival.

Money. And people. By people, not just attendees. But folks who plan, organize, set up, orchestrate and break down the event – and then do it all over again.

With dozens and dozens of supplemental volunteers, Camp Verde Promotions has been a show of fewer than 10 people who spent countless thousands of hours each year who plan, organize, set up, orchestrate and break down three events – and then do it all over again.

“Up until now, we’ve relied pretty much only on volunteers,” said B. J. Davis, president of the Camp Verde Business Alliance, which most recently became a primary partner of Camp Verde Promotions.

“Davis told council Wednesday that if the events “are going to be sustainable,” then he doesn’t think “we can continue that way.”

A lot of work

“It’s been interesting,” CVP vice president Nikki Miller says about running three events each year. “It’s been a lot of work.”

Ayers told council Wednesday that the volunteer organization needs “someone to help carry out the events.”

Recommending an event coordinator, Ayers said that he would like to see that person “selected by the folks who would hand-in-hand with the person.”

Volunteerism isn’t just roasting corn, Miller told council.

“It’s sad. I’m one of the youngest in the group,” Miller said. “And I’m not young. The biggest concern to me is that if we don’t do [one of the events] once, then they’re done.”

An investment

To Julie Scott, Camp Verde’s annual events are “an investment” in the community.

Camp Verdean Ron Posten told council he once fell in love with Camp Verde as a visitor at Cornfest.

The investment of one’s time is what has kept Camp Verde’s annual events going, several volunteers told council on Wednesday.

Council member Dee Jenkins said that if the Town is going to become involved in some capacity, “it can’t be just a few people” to run the events “or then we’ll just have burnout again.”

-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42


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