Council Awards $25K to Riverwalk Festival

Riverwalk Freedom Festival – Milford, DE

by Terry Rogers

On Monday, February 24, Milford City Council awarded $25,000 to the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford for additional costs associated with the 20th Anniversary of the Riverwalk “Freedom” Festival. Council agreed to provide the funding into future years as well.

“Because this is the 20th Anniversary, we want to make it bigger than it has in the past,” Angela Dorey, chairperson of the committee, said. “In the past, the City has contributed partial funding for our fireworks but not for our other expenses. This year, we want to add additional activities in the Kids Corner, increase our advertising budget in order to draw more attendees to Milford and add a few more recognizable bands. We also plan to make the fireworks bigger and better than ever, adding synchronized music. Additional safety measures will also be added such as crossing guards and security.”

Acting City Manager Mark Whitfield explained that the funding would come from general reserves, but Councilman Todd Culotta felt that the funding should come from the Economic Development fund.

“We appropriated money for the Ladybug Festival, which is family friendly,” Councilman Culotta said. “However, this is adding more events specifically geared toward kids. People come from all over for this festival. It draws people in who then see what Milford has to offer. Why aren’t we using our economic development money to promote these things?” Whitfield explained that funding for other organizations had come from general reserves and that $200,000 of that fund had been earmarked for streetscaping through DelDOT, leaving a balance of only $104,292.

Councilwoman Katrina Wilson asked if CCGM had lost sponsors for the event this year and asked if this would be a one-time request or it would be each year from now on. Dorey stated that they were asking that the City continue the donation into future years because they did not want to reduce festival activities after they were improved for the 20th year.

“There was a time when the City of Milford supported many different non-profits for our youth,” Councilwoman Wilson said. “We gave to Little League and Pop Warner, all of those. We had to finally make a decision not to give to them. We lowered what we gave to the library and almost stopped giving to the Milford Museum until we found out it is actually part of the City. I know you say this is important, but this is our residents’ money. We have to be careful about this because we are opening doors, so let’s be careful. It is not that I don’t support the Freedom Festival, I get how important it is to our town. However, I also am being conscientious about who is going to knock on our door tomorrow.”

Councilman Owen Brooks pointed out that there are many other festivals and events that bring people from all over the state into town, including the Halloween Parade. As far as he knew, Council had not provided funding for the parade, simply allowed them to place information in electric bills.

The request passed with a vote of 7 to 1 with Councilwoman Wilson voting no, stating that she felt it would open a door to many more organizations coming to Council. Councilman Mike Boyle stated during his yes vote that he felt the Economic Development Committee needed to take a look at the various events held in Milford and determine which should receive funding.

“I do think these events bring a lot of people into Milford,” Councilman Boyle said. “I think because of that, they are an economic development driver. People see what Milford has to offer. They can shop in our stores, eat in our restaurants and see what we have. Maybe it is time to set up some parameters for what we can and cannot support.”