Festival loses charity focus

CHARITIES have been cut out of the Griffith Festival of Gardens proceeds because of a volunteer shortage, council has claimed. 

Griffith City Council has decided for the first time in the event’s history that gate takings will now be split evenly between the Festival of Gardens management committee and the garden owners.

The new proceeds sharing arrangement coincides with a decision to raise the price of entry for an adult from $5 to $6.

Rankins Springs garden exhibiter Glenis Spence said it was a shame the event had lost its philanthropic side but agreed with the decision because many local charities found it too hard to remain involved. 

“I’ve had Can Assist, Riding for the Disabled and the Rankins Springs Catholic Church and all of them have been very good – I couldn’t fault any of them,” Mrs Spence said.

“Some people definitely came along to see the garden just because they knew I was supporting the community.

“However, it’s four full days and you need people volunteering every day so it’s very taxing on the charity. 

“Some of the smaller charity committees have less than 20 people so it’s tough on them to help every day for four days.”

The responsibility of manning the gate for the duration of the festival will now fall on the garden owners themselves.

Councillor Pat Cox suspected many charities, including local P&Cs and football clubs, may have decided they weren’t getting a satisfactory return on their time spent volunteering.

“The larger charities with more volunteers such as CanAssist and Country Hope have enough volunteers, but smaller organisations find it difficult to man the doors for several days,” Cr Cox said.

“A lot of charities do one offs like dinner dances, and perhaps they look at the prep work that can be done outside of work hours and prefer that sort of fundraising.

“We don’t want to take away any opportunity for fundraising so the garden owners are not 

limited to what they may do within their gardens to support charities in lots of different ways.”

The money saved by excluding charities will be put towards the increasing cost of running the annual event. 

“Extra takings go towards running of the festival, marketing, promotion, banners in the street. That’s where the funds go – there’s no huge bank account stored up somewhere,” Cr Cox said. 

“We used to get guests for free and now we have to pay for them, and depending on their profile it can be quite costly.

“We need to pay their transport and accommodation and a fixed cost for them to come for two or three days.”

Cr Cox insisted the high-profile guests were worth the expense as they attracted crowds to the event, dismissing calls to have locals run workshops instead.

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