Kristi Cornett and Kelly Sanders know exactly what “labor of love” means, and, as of last week, they know such efforts can sometimes break one’s heart.
That is where they are at present with a unanimous decision by the Old Time Saturday coordinating committee to cancel the Jefferson City festival for the first time since it was established in 1986.
Having watched their grandparents, the late Bill and Nancy Tullock, invest themselves in the event for 33 years, they decided to pick up the banner and carry it forward after Nancy Tullock passed away suddenly in April.
They had enlisted entertainment, as many vendors as space along Main Street could handle, and games for children’s entertainment. Progress slowed in the summer with new information they say they received from City officials, ultimately stopping Thursday with the committee’s vote.
Cornett and Sanders blame what they say are administrative roadblocks in the form of a heretofore unknown application process and the requirement of liability insurance. Given the event’s scheduled date of Saturday, October 5, they say they do not have $1,200 to cover liability insurance.
“This is what we've been told,” said Cornett in an interview. “… that they (Old Time Saturday organizers) were, like, grandfathered in … So [they] never had to have insurance, never had to have a permit. It was a city supported event… So it's an illegal event that the city has participated in?”
While the sisters said they were told by City Manager John Johnson that the festival has been “‘an illegal event,’ for 33 years” for not being in compliance, Mayor Mitch Cain holds that is not a phrase he has heard.
In a communication he sent the Standard Banner Monday afternoon, he noted, “I did not hear that statement. I believe I heard the words ‘in violation.’”
Cain said he “is saddened” to hear of the event’s cancellation and “very disappointed” to hear the news from a media representative and through “discussion on social media.”
Cornett and Sanders are dealing with disappointment on several levels that they say includes not being able to continue their grandparents’ vision and disappointing those who look forward to the event every year. Committee members have used the weekend to let entertainers, vendors and friends know of the cancellation.
“I just want people to know that we’ve tried,” said Cornett. “We can’t do it. I said I’d take it out of my own pocket, if I could but we can’t.”
“We can’t, her sister echoed, adding, “And, honestly, it’s looking more and more like that is what our grandmother did – especially these last few years.”
Their investments in this year’s event have already included logo development, the creation of a website, making a flyer and having “put money into trademarking it and t-shirts.”
Cain said he expects the festival will be a topic of conversation and perhaps public concern at tonight’s City Council meeting, slated for 5 p.m. in Council Chambers of City Hall.