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Rec Commission may need to trim banquet

500 usually invited to attend fundraising event

The Central Blair Recreation & Park Commission is planning for its 2021 Community Classic dinner with the expectation that COVID-19 will prohibit the usual 500 attendees from packing into the Bavarian Hall to raise money so kids can participate in programs like basketball, T-ball, soccer and flag football.

It could end up as a big Zoom meeting.

“I just don’t want to kill it yet,” commission Executive Director Mike Hofer said at a meeting this week.

Virtual might work, accompanied with a takeout meal, suggested commissioner Ed Frontino, when Hofer shared his concerns about the next version of the event, normally held in February.

The commission will need to raise about $15,000 to have enough “to keep these kiddos playing” next year, given that there is some left over from this year, because the coronavirus limited program action, Hofer said.

Maybe a smaller crowd or a bigger venue would allow for an in-person experience for at least some of those who are willing to support the cause — depending on state Department of Health restrictions that may be in force, other commission members said.

Maybe most of those willing to help would be content with a straight donation, said commissioner Matt Cacciotti.

The traditional sports memorabilia auction that goes with the dinner could work well online, Hofer said.

And the commission could settle for a less-well-known and thus less-expensive keynote speaker, Hofer said.

But extended planning followed by a forced cancellation because of a COVID-19 spike would be a “nightmare scenario,” he said.

Still, “we’ve got to figure out a way to generate revenue,” he said.

An outdoor event would allow for a bigger crowd, but February is too cold for that — and there isn’t enough free time once spring begins for staff to do the work, Hofer said.

One favorable development is the willingness of the Booker T. Washington Revitalization Corp. to let all the banquet’s proceeds go next year to the commission, because of the commission’s COVID-19 revenue losses this year, Hofer said.

The organizations generally split the banquet proceeds, he said.

Those losses were about 25 percent over a $1 million budget, estimated commissioner Ken Decker.

That came from not opening Prospect Pool, not having concession money or ballfield rentals or playground rentals and day camps, Hofer said.

Reductions in expenses offset about half those revenue losses, Hofer estimated.

“We have cut as much as we possibly can” by eliminating positions, including those of cashiers and concession stand workers, and calling on the remaining employees to take on a variety of roles, he said.

But there was no avoiding the cost of building and grounds maintenance, he said.

“We’ll get creative over the next month or two and see how things go” with planning for the dinner, Hofer said.

In November, the board can make its decision about whether to proceed, he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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