'Mater Fest hasn't yet run its course

FOCUS should accept volunteer help and keep it going
Apr 08, 2014

Some events come and go after a couple of years, but others are so popular it seems they will endure. That appeared to be the case with  the Mountain ‘Mater Fest held in Canton each August, which has been a favorite Haywood County event for the past 10 years.

So last week’s announcement that FOCUS on Canton would be discontinuing the beloved ‘Mater Fest was a huge disappointment for many in the community. Like with so many nonprofit, volunteer organizations, FOCUS attributed the decision to a lack of volunteer participation, which is needed to put on the big event.

But is that really an insurmountable obstacle? After posting the announcement on The Mountaineer’s Facebook page, numerous people extended offers to step up and volunteer to avoid losing the signature event in Canton.

As someone on Facebook pointed out, these great events don’t just happen on their own — it takes months of planning and dedicated individuals willing to put in the time to make sure it’s successful.

We don’t need to lose ‘Mater Fest. The event fits perfectly into our branding efforts through the Haywood County Tourist Development Authority. The TDA is working to promote Haywood’s local heritage and culture, which heavily relies on agri-tourism. It is why our Appalachia and bluegrass festivals and our farmers markets are so successful.

‘Mater Fest showcases our local farmers, lifestyle and delicious produce. Tourists love the local flavor that the event brings to downtown Canton — tomato-eating contests, pig races and local vendors.

The two-day festival also encourages tourists to make a weekend out of it, which puts heads in beds and money in the pockets of our local businesses. It may just seem like one more summer event on the long list of things going on in Haywood, but it’s an important one for our economy. And aside from that — who doesn’t love tomato pie?

FOCUS members said they had new events in mind, and while we look forward to more to do in Canton, ‘Mater Fest is worth saving. We understand that volunteers can become burned out and that it often boils down to a small number of individuals to do the heavy lifting for such events.

But with energetic new volunteers willing to pitch in and the experience of past leaders who have made the event what it had become, it seems like something definitely worth considering.

Calls on whether FOCUS organizers would reconsider their decision in light of the interest were not returned by press time.

We hope that enough people will attend the next meeting and show the FOCUS stalwards they are willing to step forward to help continue ‘Mater Fest as well as assist with other efforts spearheaded by the organization, including a farmers market in Canton.

FOCUS meetings are held on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Papertown Grill, 153 Main St., Canton.

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