Ruritans call on public to rescue Culpeper Days
BY DONNIE JOHNSTON
The Culpeper Ruritan Club is appealing to the public for help in trying to save Culpeper Days.
The annual first-Saturday-in-May event, begun by the Jaycees in 1978 at the urging of the Town Council and now sponsored by the Ruritan Club, may end at the hands of the same municipal body that helped create it.
Traditionally, the entire length of Davis Street up to the firehouse and Commerce Street near the Depot have been blocked off for the event, which draws thousands.
However, because of merchant protests, the Town Council last month voted to allow only half of one block at the east end of Davis Street (plus Commerce Street) to be closed.
That action also gave the Ruritans access to the town parking lot on East Davis Street, if the town parking authority agrees. During a meeting last week, the authority put off any parking lot decision until next Friday, according to authority Chairman Pranas Rimeikis.
Rimeikis had earlier expressed concerns over taking that lot away from the farmers market, which sets up there every Saturday between April and October.
“Council is insisting that our ‘street festival’ become a ‘sectional festival’ with activities restricted to unconnected sections of the downtown area and parking lots, options which essentially relegate Culpeper Days to the ‘backyard.’” Ruritan spokesman Billy Walter stated in a press release.
Speaking at a news conference Friday that included Rimeikis and Town Manager Kim Alexander, Walter said that the club, in a last-ditch effort to save the annual festival, is asking residents to express their support for the event either by contacting councilmen before Tuesday’s Town Council meeting or speaking during the open-forum session that night.
He also said that the Ruritan Club would go back to its original request, which asked that all of Davis Street (except in front of the firehouse) be closed.
“We feel that this is a fair request,” Walter said. “Let the people speak.”
Walter said that the town annually spends thousands of dollars on other promotions that draw fewer people.
“You’re spending tax money to do what we do for free,” he said.
Walter said that his club has made several attempts to address the concerns of the Davis Street merchants, but said their demands “always seem to be a shifting sand.”
Alexander asked if the Ruritan Club had considered holding the festival on Sunday, when most businesses were closed. Walter said his group had thought about that, but rejected the idea because it does not want to interfere with church services.
Walter again reminded Alexander and Rimeikis that proceeds from Culpeper Days are used, in part, to provide college scholarships for needy Culpeper students.
Walter said a decision needs to be made Tuesday so vendors can arrange their 2013 schedules. If the Ruritan Club can’t get Davis Street closed, he said there is a strong likelihood that Culpeper Days will fall by the wayside.
“Location is key to the success of this event,” Walter said.