The annual festival is not only the city’s preeminent event, drawing nearly 30,000 people to downtown Patterson annually. It has also helped form the town’s identity during the past four decades, providing the impetus for Patterson being declared the Apricot Capital of the World. Additionally, the celebration is a major homecoming event for former residents who grew up in this town.
While the fiesta remains popular, it has faced no shortage of challenges in recent years, including stormy weather in 2011, a difficult economy, an increase in insurance costs and new fees required by city government since 2007.
It’s understandable why city officials would want to tighten their belts during economically challenging times and recoup some of the $25,000 they expect to spend on fiesta-related costs each year. But as the housing market turns around and city revenue increases, the city should absorb more of those costs to help make the event more successful. After all, local retailers and hotels — and, consequently, city coffers — stand to benefit when the fiesta does well.
It was encouraging to see the City Council decide last week to waive a $5,000 fee this year that the fiesta has paid for public safety services since 2009. An organizational plan proposed by Councilman Dominic Farinha should provide greater stability for the event in the future, outlining which costs the city should take on and which the fiesta should assume.
Community members can do their part, in the meantime, by showing up to the annual event and patronizing the vendors. Those who feel inclined can donate directly to support the fireworks show and fiesta operations. As Apricot Fiesta Secretary Marilyn Hoobler has said, if everyone who enjoyed the fireworks show contributed $1 to pay for it, organizers could put on a $30,000 show.
Fiesta organizers, for their part, can lure even more folks downtown by coming up with a greater variety of new attractions each year to keep the event fresh, even while maintaining beloved traditions, such as the parade and the Miss Patterson contest.
As a community celebration, the Patterson Apricot Fiesta has had remarkable staying power over the years, and that’s a testament to Hoobler, to the volunteer board and to the people of Patterson who desire to keep it going, including city leaders and staff. Here’s hoping the city can work successfully with organizers to sustain the event for another 42 years of success.