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Originally published April 15, 2012 at 7:12 PM | Page modified April 15, 2012 at 7:15 PM

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Economy, lack of volunteers cancel community celebrations

Community celebrations are taking a hit due to an apparent drop in civic involvement that has come amid years of challenging economic times.

Centralia Chronicle

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Summertime in Lewis County and surrounding areas is marked by festivals that celebrate the best of each community.

Those celebrations, though, are taking a hit due to an apparent drop in civic involvement that has come amid years of challenging economic times.

In Oakville, the annual Zucchini Jubilee and Independence Day Parade have been canceled after the town's chamber of commerce folded. An Easter-egg hunt managed for 46 years by the Chehalis Lions Club was canceled for a lack of volunteers.

Now, Napavine is grappling with similar issues and trying to determine whether its popular Funtime Festival will come to fruition this summer.

For 44 years, the Napavine festival has brought people from as far away as California to take part in the grand parade, classic car show and princess coronation during the third weekend in July.

It's unclear if the show will go on.

"People have ideas, but they want someone else to do it," said Napavine Funtime Festival President Jerry Owens.

"If people don't step up and help us out, I'm not sure the festival will go on this year."

Putting on the annual event takes interest, volunteering and fundraising from the Napavine Funtime Festival nonprofit and other community members, all of which are lacking this year.

"The purpose is to have a good community event to get everyone together, play games and give back," Owens said.

Unfortunately, the volunteer-based event is down to six helpers compared with nearly 20 in the past.

On top of the low volunteer numbers, the tough economy and low number of businesses in Napavine makes fundraising nonexistent.

Where other community events have outside organizations to help fundraise and volunteer, Owens said the Napavine Funtime Festival nonprofit is alone.

"We don't have a chamber of commerce, Lions Club or anything like that," Owens said. "We are it."

The Napavine Funtime Festival board has planned a meeting tentatively for Wednesday to discuss the future of the event.

"Hopefully we come up with new ideas," Owens said. "And try to keep some things going."

Owens anticipates a slimmed-down event this year. He said the Funtime Festival, July 20-22, will still have the princess coronation, car show and some kids games, but nothing that makes money.

"It's getting harder for every community," Owens said.

In Mossyrock, the sixth-annual Blueberry Festival is having similar difficulties with funding and volunteer interest, event coordinator Terri Aust said.

"We have had a hard year with volunteering," Aust said. "It's been hard getting new people in. If we don't get more help, then a few people have to do a lot."

Aust said this year has been the most difficult year due to the low volunteer numbers and the economy. Aust said she has seen less sponsorships for the festival, which means less funding.

"There won't be as many events," Aust said of the festival on Aug. 4-5. "And we may not have the bouncy toys."

Aust said despite the tough times, she still plans for the pie-eating contest, dog show, fish pond, live band and vendors.

"I would hate to see it go away," Aust said.

Recently in Oakville, two traditional events went away after the chamber of commerce ceased operations last month.

Due to a dwindling community participation, the Oakville Chamber of Commerce suspended operations, putting an end to the Zucchini Jubilee and the Independence Day Parade.

The president of the chamber and United Methodist Church Pastor Bill Scholl told The Chronicle last month that the board of directors voted to suspend operations because they couldn't find volunteers to get involved in events.

"The group that kept going was getting tired and we just decided to suspend it until somebody else steps up and takes it over," Scholl said.

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