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Path cleared for Celebrate De Pere’s return to Voyageur Park

By Lee Reinsch

DE PERE – Celebrate De Pere wants to come back home.

Event co-president Bob Tease made the case for the return to Voyageur Park at the Dec. 19 meeting of the De Pere park board.

Celebrate De Pere moved to the Brown County Fairgrounds in 2019 with the aim of attracting more people, accommodating more traffic, and making more money to give to veterans groups and local nonprofits, Tease said.

Attendance had dipped in recent years, although it went up in 2019, possibly because of the change in venue, he said.

But that arrangement wasn’t optimal, and the group would like to return to Voyageur Park in time for this year’s event, May 21-23, coinciding with its 30th anniversary.

Tease said before the event moved to the fairgrounds, people complained about the lack of parking at Voyageur, both visitors as well as businesses whose parking lots and spaces were subsumed by Celebrate De Pere attendees.

A trolley from the west side to the east side alleviated some of the problem.

“We were hoping to infuse some excitement by having it at the fairgrounds,” he said, adding the board was obligated to explore other venues which might be beneficial for the good of the event.

But he said the goal of growing the event by having it at the fairgrounds didn’t happen, in part due to the bald eagle which makes its nest there.

That caused parking and some activities to be reconfigured.

“Literally two weeks before the event, the entire footprint of the fairgrounds got changed,” he said.

He said people just aren’t spending what they used to spend, for a variety of reasons.

“It used to be the case where everybody used to go out and drink a little bit more, eat a little bit more,” he said. “Now folks are reluctant to drink to any extent, so over the years, the revenues that our vendors have received, and thus, the revenues Celebrate De Pere receives, have been reduced over the years.”

Tease said it’s necessary for Celebrate to generate more revenue if it’s to continue contributions to nonprofits and local causes, because its overhead isn’t getting any lower.

“If we have one national act each night for two nights, plus security and behind-the-scenes costs, that can easily add up to $200,000 just on bands,” he said.

Cooperation from the city and support from the community is fundamental for the event to continue, Tease said.

“I would hate to see the 30th be the last,” he said. “Unless we get numbers that increase our attendance and bring in events and interesting things to allow people to have fun, then the longevity of our event is at risk.”

Commissioner Sue Schinkten made a motion to waive park fees for the event.

The park commissioners voted unanimously to welcome Celebrate De Pere back to Voyageur and waive the park fees.

Finalizing the move back to Voyageur Park is dependent on a signed contract with Celebrate De Pere and the De Pere parks department, but the park is now reserved for the event.

In other Voyageur Park news, the park commissioners voted to nix an $8,000 enclosure for a Dumpster from the budget.

The park commissioners also voted to include three panic-bar safety gates into the deck layout of the future VFW aquatics facility.

Panic-bar safety gates lock from the inside and can only be opened by hitting a bar on the inside.

When the bar is hit, the gate opens to the outside and an alarm sounds.

They cost about $2,000 each.

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