Town Hall takes reins of Big Grab

Switzer: Town Agrees To Partner With Chamber

BLYTHEWOOD – Blythewood Mayor J. Michael Ross announced via email on Wednesday, July 25 that the 2018 Big Grab is on for Sept. 7 and 8, and that the Town would be organizing and funding the event this year since two vendors, the Greater Blythewood Chamber of Commerce and merchant Teresa McKenrick, had backed off their requests to manage the Blythewood section of the event after the council said it would only fund them for the actual costs of the event.

“Phil Frye, as chair of the chamber’s Big Grab committee, called me around noon today [July 25] and informed me of the [chamber] board’s decision to decline the town’s offer of $5,000 to organize this year’s Big Grab. Our staff, under the direction of Events Coordinator, Steve Hasterok, looks forward to this challenge and being ready Sept 7 for the 2018 Big Grab!” Ross stated in his email.

About 9 o’clock the next morning, however, Mike Switzer, Executive Director of the Chamber sent out an email he said was a ‘Big Grab Joint Press Release from the Town and Chamber,’ stating that he and the town (not council) had reached an agreement to jointly support the Blythewood section of the Big Grab. The email stated that the Chamber would continue to manage the Blythewood Big Grab web page and Facebook page, and continue to coordinate vendor sites as it did last year. For information about security, trash and portable restrooms, however, questions were directed to Steve Hasterok, Director of the town’s conference center and events, at 803-754-0501.

The Voice had not received the ‘joint press release’ from the Town Hall at press time.

The question of who would manage the 2018 Big Grab became an issue at the July 23 town council meeting. That ended without a decision being made as to who would be heading up this year’s Big Grab.  Two applicants asked for $10,000 in A-Tax funding, but both presented much larger budgets. Merchant Theresa McKenrick’s budget came to $15,000 and Greater Blythewood Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mike Switzer’s budget came in at $14,500. Both wanted to use the park for vendor setup, sell sponsorships to raise extra money and pay salaries for staffing – McKenrick, up to $4,000 and Switzer, $5,000.

Merchants had been vocal that they did not want vendors in the park, which they said hurt the sales in the town’s brick and mortar businesses; they did not want to have to pay sponsorship fees of $75 each and they objected to A-Tax funds going to pay thousands of dollars for salaries for the organizer’s staffs.

After council listened to both parties and other merchants, Ross offered $5,000 to cover actual expenses, with no allocation from A-Tax funds for staff salaries. McKenrick turned the offer down at the meeting, saying she would not run it without paid staff. After taking the option to the chamber board for a vote, Frye notified Town Hall on July 25 that the chamber, too, was turning down the offer.

“The Town of Blythewood is always sensitive to the needs of local merchants, businesses and individuals,” Ross stated in his email. “We recognize the desire to return The Big Grab to the way it was before, to have it ‘get back to its roots,’ to be a family friendly event that highlights small businesses and individuals selling items in a true ‘yard sale’ environment,” Ross wrote.

Ross stated that Doko Park would not be open to vendors during The Big Grab event this year. Instead, vendors will be encouraged to find spaces around the town and in empty lots where they can set up shop as they did during the first years of The Big Grab. Some of the merchants, including Blythewood Consignment, Bits and Pieces and Sweet Pea’s Ice Cream Parler, have offered vendors the opportunity to set up on their lots at no charge by calling ahead to reserve the spot. Others may charge nominal fees.

Ross assured merchants and vendors that town hall would pay the costs of whatever is needed to make the event safe, enjoyable and successful such as arranging for sheriff’s deputies for traffic control, trash receptacles and portable restroom facilities along Main Street and other areas where they are needed.

“We want to highlight the wonderful community that we have here,” Ross wrote. He referred questions to Hasterok at 803-754-0501 or at [email protected]

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