By Bera Dunau, The Foxboro Reporter
Published: Thursday, October 27, 2016 9:31 AM EDT
This year saw the 27th annual Founders Day in Foxboro, with thousands of people from across the community coming together to watch and participate in the parade through town and in the festivities on Booth Field, before settling in to watch the evening fireworks display.
But unless more volunteers sign up, it may very well be the last Founders Day, ever.
“We don’t have enough people,” said Founders Day Committee member Krystn Gustafson.
That’s the message that the Founders Day Committee is urgently trying to impart to the residents of Foxboro, and its members say they are not exaggerating the very real possibility that the beloved festival could be no more.
“We’re going to either elect board members or have a discussion on how to shut it down,” said Foxboro Founders Day Committee Member Scott O’Donnell. “That’s the hard choice.”
In a meeting with The Foxboro Reporter, O’Donnell and Gustafson explained that a core group of volunteers have kept Founders Day going for years. However, the burden being shouldered by this small group, where everyone wears multiple hats, has become unsustainable.
“We’re at our breaking point,” said O’Donnell.
Now, with three committee members stepping down at the end of this year, the committee has determined that it needs at least six new members to keep going, although more members would be ideal. Committee members get to select the theme for Founders Day and work with governmental and nonprofit organizations to help run and set the event up, which includes the parade, the field events and the “Norman Rockwell” fireworks. The committee also determines the Grand Marshall of the Founders Day Parade.
“It’s a lot of planning,” said O’Donnell.
Committee members are expected to go to meetings once a month during the year, and once a week during the time period from May until Founders Day, which is scheduled to happen on June 10 this year. Meetings last for about an hour during the year, and stretch to an hour and a half in the weeks leading up to the big day, and are held on Tuesdays. Committee members also participate in fundraising activities year-round.
In addition to new committee members, the committee is looking for about 30 people to sign up to be volunteers over Founders Day weekend as well. These volunteers would help set up for Founders Day on Friday, help the parade and field events run smoothly on the day itself, and clean up on Sunday, although volunteers won’t have to volunteer on all three days.
O’Donnell and Gustafson noted that the more volunteers that they get to help out on Founders Day and volunteer on the committee, the easier the work will be. They also expressed an openness to having an after party for the volunteers.
“If we get volunteers we’ll have a big after party and I’ll pay for it,” said O’Donnell, although he did walk back his personal financial commitment shortly after uttering this statement.
If the committee’s volunteer and committee member targets are not met by its meeting on Jan. 3, there will still be a fireworks display next year on Founders Day, as the money has already been raised to put it on. However, don’t expect that to continue either.
“I’m not going to do fundraising just so we can have a fireworks display,” said O’Donnell.
As for why they keep on volunteering, Gustafson pointed to the great memories that Founders Day has made for people over the years.
“It’s a love for your own town that you grew up in,” said Gustafson. “You want to pass on those memories that you had as a kid.”
“You want to give back to the town,” said O’Donnell, who added that the day itself is also a lot of fun.
He also related an analogy from committee member Steve Udden, who likened planning Founders Day to planning a wedding each year for the same couple.
Gustafson said that her favorite memories of Founders Day involved the fireman’s muster and eating strawberry shortcake.
O’Donnell noted that, in addition to being a nice community event, Founders Day serves as a big fundraising opportunity for a number of Foxboro nonprofits and churches. In fact, for some organizations, it is their biggest fundraiser of the year.
“They’re going to miss out (if there is no Founders Day),” said O’Donnell.
In terms of the favorite themes that each of them were involved in picking, O’Donnell and Gustafson both cited “Music in the Air,” 2015’s theme.
It was also pointed out that Founders Day doesn’t have a desire for corporate or business sponsorship.
“We wanted to keep that small town feel,” said Gustafson, who acknowledged that this did make fundraising a challenge.
This lack of a business presence also means that the organizations doing fundraising get to sell all the food at Founders Day.
The Founders Day Committee is going all-out to make sure the beloved celebration persists. The slogan “Save Founders Day” has been adopted by the group, and a call to action is the first thing people now see when they look on the Founders Day website. At the group’s election day fundraiser at the Ahern School, a banner with the slogan will also be prominently displayed. Although election day fundraisers are some of the committee’s biggest, O’Donnell and Gustafson say that the focus of the committee for the event has shifted from raising money to signing up volunteers, which interested parties can do right there on the spot.
Those who want to sign up to volunteer but can’t do so on election day should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call committee member Cindi Haddad Drew at her business, Cindi’s Diamond and Jewelry Gallery, at 508-543-4943.