Balloon festival: Dispute on boot
Updated On: Jun 06, 2009 (09:01:00)
LEWISTON - Councilors will let firefighters collect donations to help the Muscular Dystrophy Association near the entrances of the Great Falls Balloon Festival in an attempt to settle a community controversy.
The festival's board of directors and the firefighters' union were at a standoff about whether the firefighters should be allowed to collect money for their charity during the festival.
Councilors said both groups are important and do good work and the council urged them to settle their differences.
"If you can't work it out, then mom and dad may have to work it out for you," Councilor Tom Peters said.
Representatives from the festival board of directors said that letting the firefighters' union collect donations during the event works against other community charities that participate in the festival. Those groups, including athletic boosters, church and school organizations, pay a fee for booths to sell food or monitor parking during the event.
Rick Cailler, president of the firefighters' union, said his group simply wants to do what it can to help a charity. In the past, firefighters wandered the grounds of the festival wearing their dress uniforms, asking passers-by to fill a rubber boot with donations.
They typically raise $8,000 per year with their "Fill the Boot" campaign.
Last year, after balloon festival organizers banned them from the grounds, firefighters raised $1,500.
"So you can see this is important to us," Cailler said.
Councilor Robert Reed said he attempted to host negotiations between the groups Saturday at his house, but festival representatives declined to participate. He was willing to withhold city support of the event because of the disagreement.
The Great Falls Balloon Festival is scheduled for Aug. 21-23. Events will be spread over both cities, but will be concentrated at Simard/Payne Memorial Park - formerly Railroad Park - in Lewiston. Organizers asked for the use of city parks and parking lots and for the right to close some city streets during the festival. They also asked the city to provide police officers, public works and other staff, which would cost $15,699.