As the 2019 Peanut Butter Festival is just around the corner, many folks are already looking forward to this year’s festivities. Several recent posts on social media raised concerns about the consideration of removing Friday night – so as past Chairman for the Festival and past President of the Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce, I’d like to address those concerns:

PREFACE:
For those community members who may be unaware of the history and background of the festival, I would ‘highly encourage’ you to first read my blog post from 2017 which details a historical turning-point in the Festival’s future: GordonBarrows.com/peanut-butter-festival

PROGRESS:
Since the overwhelming success of the 2017 Peanut Butter Festival, the Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors adopted several new changes with the intent to further improve the festival’s foreseeable future.

One of the most significant improvements for 2018, was a Board of Director ‘Organizational Chart’ which required each of the Directors to lead an individual facet of the festival with a respective subcommittee and list of specific duties. This chart allowed for better delegation of duties and actively engaged each Director.

The Organizational Chart removed the burden from only having a few chairpersons, while improving the balance of responsibilities across each of the Board of Directors. While some were skeptical, this strategy worked surprisingly well, improving efficiency, effectiveness and overall productivity.

Combining the ‘Operational Playbooks’ implemented in 2017 and the ‘Organization Chart’ in 2018, they were both major improvements that helped to ensure the Festival’s sustainability. (See my 2017 blog post for more info about the operational playbooks.)

PROBLEM:
As the Board of Directors worked through 2018, we recognized another ongoing issue with our July Fireworks event – costs were rising and our annual Golf Outing (used to fund the Fireworks) suffered from market saturation. We needed a way to fund the Fireworks event as it was in jeopardy of insufficient funding.

After many long meetings and countless hours of planning and organizing, the Board discussed expanding the Peanut Butter Festival Wine Walk – developing it into a dedicated event with the goal it would generate enough revenue to cover its own costs, while allowing the Chamber to continue offering the Fireworks event.

What would eventually become the 2019 Wine, Shine & Brew Festival, was met with overwhelming success. Feedback from the community was very positive, while participants expressed their excitement when looking forward to next year.

PRESENT:
As the Board is currently in the planning stages for the 2019 Peanut Butter Festival, there has been discussion (which is now public knowledge) about potentially removing Friday night of the festival.

There are ‘multiple’ reasons for possibly removing Friday night – some points are mildly reasonable, while other points I personally struggle to agree with. I must respect my Board’s wishes and abide by our organizational bylaws, so I am unable to share any ‘specific’ details until they formally approve whatever means of communication they determine is best. However, I would warmly welcome folks to attend our next meeting. (See ‘Conclusion Section’ below for more details).

If there’s one thing I’ve learned being on both sides of the table – it’s there are two (2) sides to every story. The public often makes assumptions, is quick-to-judge (and quick to react on social media) without knowing all the facts and background information. Whereas community leaders often struggle with properly communicating in a ‘timely’ and ‘effective’ manner with the public – mutually effective communication between ‘both’ parties is key.

SOCIAL MEDIA:
It has recently come to my attention that some folks decided to voice their dissatisfaction using social media. Some community members have mixed feelings with the possibility of removing Friday night, and they’re frustrated with the lack of transparency and effective communication.

While everyone has the right to share their opinion – freedom of speech – it can become a frustration-filled form of permanent regret that is deconstructive to the overall purpose of finding a mutually acceptable solution.

I personally was disappointed to read some of the comments that were being shared. No individual person deserves to be mistreated on social media – especially when a single post can quickly be seen by hundreds and sometimes thousands.

There is a very fine line between using social media to ‘poll public opinion’ and ‘garner constructive feedback’ verses when it becomes toxic, highly opinionated and non-productive. Today’s technology and social-media platforms enable us to share top-of-mind, unfiltered thoughts to the world, which all too often lead to unintended, irreversible consequences.

VOLUNTEER:
Serving as a community leader in most cases is an unpaid, volunteer position, where you find gratitude and satisfaction in helping others.

I encourage folks to actively participate and join Borough Council, the Chamber of Commerce, the Community Center or any other Board to experience the joy of helping others, and the challenge of invoking change.

Our goal should always be to keep the community’s best interests at heart – this means we can’t make everyone happy – and sometimes we face the challenge of public scrutiny, especially when invoking change, and making those ‘tough decisions.’ However, this is why we have an elected Board of Directors and regularly scheduled monthly meetings, (open to the public), to receive constructive community feedback to aid in the decision-making process.

CONCLUSION:
I would highly encourage folks to attend our next Chamber of Commerce meeting where you can express your constructive feedback, share your opinion, and offer suggestions for improvement in a professional and diplomatic manner.

If after attending the meeting, whatever the final vote may be, you still feel encouraged to make a difference, keep in mind, the general public, including Chamber members, vote for the Board of Directors each year in the Spring. Get involved.

If you are unable to attend our next meeting, we welcome you to call the office at 814.275.3929 or email the Board of Directors at: [email protected] or visit: RedbankChamber.com/contact

The Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce monthly meetings are open to the public, local businesses and our Chamber members. Monthly meetings are held the second Thursday of every month at the Redbank Valley Public Library at 12 noon. We’re always looking for motivated volunteers.

FACEBOOK:
Use social media to be part of the solution by sharing/joining the Facebook event for our next meeting: Facebook.com/events/862072477487388

Gordon Barrows, Past President & Past Festival Chairman
Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce & Peanut Butter Festival
www.RedbankChamber.com or www.PBFestival.com