Spirit of Beacon Day Organizers Changing Hands After 2017

Current organizers of the Spirit of Beacon Day, one of the city's longest running volunteer-based daylong celebrations, are disbanding after this fall's event. Just who will replace them is undecided. Rose Story, chairperson of the event for almost 20 years, says: "We are a very small committee. We’ve been doing this for a very long time, and it’s time to give someone else a chance." Just who that someone else (or someone elses) will be seems to be a decision owned by no one, since the Spirit of Beacon Day is owned by the people of Beacon. "It’s not our decision to say who can do it," Story says, adding, "I will gladly help out with the transition."

Mayor Randy Casale announced this development at the July 17, 2017 City Council Meeting, and made it clear that responsibility for finding the replacement does not reside with the City, encouraging volunteers to come forward. “It’s not the city’s job to run these events," Mayor Casale stated at the meeting. "If people want events, they need to volunteer; they need to organize. They've got to figure out how they are run, and then come to the City to ask what we’ll allow and not allow, and move forward from there.”

Origins of the Spirit of Beacon Day

The Spirit of Beacon Day began in 1977 as a solution to racially driven problems between students of the Beacon City Schools and the community, according to "Celebrating Our Centennial," published by the Beacon Historical Society (buy the book at Beacon Bath & Bubble, across from the Howland Cultural Center). According to the historians, in the winter and early spring of 1977, "racial problems became severe" for several days and nights. Meeting several times to discuss the issues were city leaders and concerned agencies, including a representative from the FBI's Community Relations, Dutchess County Youth Bureau, then-Mayor Robert Cahill, local legislators, City Council, clergy people, and representatives from youth-focused organizations like Beacon City School District, the Howland Public Library, the Beacon Community Center, and others.

It was decided that there would be a Community Day aimed at bringing the people of the City together in order to "get to know one another better, learn what each other liked, [via] conversation, feelings, entertainment, education and food." These meetings began in May, and the people scrambled together to hold a Community Day on the last Sunday of September that year. This came to be known as the Spirit of Beacon Day. A committee was formed, and booths featuring food, crafts and exhibits from local organizations and agencies were planned and set up. The Mayor and City Council led the march, but it was declared by the committee at that time that "politicking" not be allowed, and politicians seeking election were not allowed to participate. Additionally, at some point during the parade's history, it was decided that only nonprofit groups could set up booths along Main Street.

Today's Spirit of Beacon Day

Today, and many committee members later, the parade still goes on, and does feature Beacon City Schools and other participants. The Mayor stressed that producing a parade is no small feat, and is a lot of work for anyone involved. "[The organizers] don’t have many volunteers helping them," Mayor Casale said. "It takes a lot of work for people that haven’t done it, to organize a parade the size of that parade, and to organize the whole day’s event which is on Main Street. A lot goes into it."

The Mayor continued, mentioning more recent concerns: "[The organizers] get some grief from business owners, ‘Why do these booths have to be in front of my business during my business day?’ " Originally, the Spirit of Beacon Day originated from the minds of many leaders, with a few on a committee to carry it out. Said the Mayor at the City Council meeting: "I had reached out when they came to me - because I didn’t know if [the organizers] had put it public yet - to the Chamber, to BeaconArts, and to the Parks and Recreation director, and I told them: 'We’re going to have to think about what we’re going to do about the Spirit of Beacon Day next year. It gives us a whole year find out what we plan on doing, how we’re going to do it, and start deciding.' ”

Who Will Carry On The Spirit Of Beacon Day?

According to Kelly Ellenwood, president of BeaconArts, the organizing of it will not fall into their court: "BeaconArts will not be 'running it,' although I'm sure that we would continue to participate as a nonprofit organization as we have before." Michele Williams, board member of Beacon's Chamber of Commerce, confirms that the Chamber is considering taking it on as a project: "We know it’s important to the kids and to the community," said Michele. "We will figure out a way to make everybody happy. We know that students look forward to the parade, and that it's an important event to the people of the City of Beacon. We are discussing it at our next board meeting, including ideas to make everyone in Beacon happy, including business owners. Regarding the tables being nonprofits, that is simply how the organizers had set it up, and does not have to be this way moving forward."

Spirit of Beacon Day 2017 Will March On

The parade will happen on the last Sunday in September as it always has, and according to the Mayor at the July 17, 2017, City Council meeting, it will continue next year. For this year, parade participants can continue to contact Roy Ciancanelli at (845) 831-3027 after 6 pm or email royal_ciancanelli@hotmail.com.

See A Little Beacon Blog's past coverage of Spirit of Beacon Days.

To be continued...