Waterford Week falls on hard times

Waterford - Waterford Week will not include a parade this year, or a ball.

The event, in its 38th year, is facing hard times, according to event coordinators. They say volunteers are short on time and numerous events have had low attendance in recent years.

"It's sad. It's really sad," said volunteer Jody Nazarchyk, who first became involved with Waterford Week in the early 1990s, explaining that summer timing can be hard and families aren't as available as they used to be.

She said that while in the past, a meeting for event organizing might draw 12 to 15 people, it now draws five or six. The week included a parade last year, but it wasn't well attended, and neither was the ball that the event's volunteer coordinators experimented with putting on.

Coordinators are now working to change things to make the week more convenient and attractive to residents. On the top of the list of things to consider is converting Waterford Week to a Waterford weekend starting in 2015.

People live more structured lives these days and don't have the time to commit to events throughout a week, volunteers have said. Former Waterford Week Chairman Timothy Condon said that current economic strain on families means people don't have time to devote to volunteering.

"Things are just changing," said the event's current Chairman Svetlana Amodeo.

Nazarchyk said she would like to see a weekend scheduled in October, perhaps a harvest festival that uses Waterford High School as a central location.

The idea behind a weekend-long celebration is that arranging concurrent events in a small area would make the town-spirit event more convenient for residents. As it stands, events are mostly scattered throughout the week.

Amodeo said drawing in 20-somethings is also a priority. To that end, Waterford Week this year includes events geared toward the younger set, such as a community theater production of the musical "Rent," which deals with mature themes such as drug abuse.

Event Secretary Celeste Milukas, who organizes the week's variety show, said she might consider a coffee house or open mic-style event in the future.

"The place where we've been sorely lacking are the people who are young and vibrant and in between," Amodeo said.

Another challenge for the event week in the past few years has been the reconstruction of the high school, according to volunteers. This is the first summer in five years that the school has been available for use for the event. Nazarchyk thinks the reopening may mean events such as the Waterford Lions' annual craft fair may soon return to Waterford Week.

Most events have stayed part of the week, and some new ones have even been added this year, such as Beats for the Balkans, a concert organized by the Waterford Green Party that will benefit the United Nations World Food Program.

The production of "Rent" is the first theater production taking place during Waterford Week in five years, according to high school theater Director Shane Valle.

One change benefitting the coordinating group was getting insurance coverage through the Recreation and Parks Department, which treats Waterford Week as a co-sponsored group. Department Assistant Director Ryan McNamara said the event is treated as an extension of the department.

The department has slated $4,750 for this year's events, according to Finance Director Rudie Beers.

To help them plan future changes to the event, Waterford Week leadership has created an online survey to ask residents what would attract them to the event. The survey asks questions about how residents feel about Waterford, whether they think there is a sense of community, and, if they don't participate in Waterford Week activities, then why not.

As Amodeo puts it, volunteers are "trying to meet people's needs."



If you go

Waterford Week starts Aug. 7 with the opening night of Waterford Summer Theater's Rent. It continues through Aug. 17 with events taking place at various locations. More information is available at waterfordweek.org, where the survey can also be found.


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