C&C elections in April first step to the return of the festivities.
Clarkfield Civic and Commerce members are still hopeful for the future of their organization and Heart of the Prairie Days, despite the current lack of interest.
“We are really hoping to draw certain passionate individuals who may say, ‘okay these events aren’t happening this year, but I want to help make them happen next year.’” C&C Vice President Kelly Johnson said.
The C&C is holding their annual elections at their April meeting, giving business owners and citizens alike the opportunity to rejuvenate interest in the group that has been afflicted with waning participation.
“I hear stories that there used to be 20 and 30 people at the meetings in the past, and they were doing something every month,” C&C Secre-tary/Treasurer Stephanie Randall said. “Six is the most we’ve had at a regular meeting in a long time. The more people you have to spread out the work, the easier it is to hold more events.”
But it isn’t the lack of businesses or business owners that C&C find to be the problem – just the willingness or time commitment to be a part of it.
“It is not that we don’t have businesses in town – we do,” Sue Fritz said. “However, you can’t just pay your dues and then not participate in the organization you are a member of, because then the organization doesn’t move forward. This town has a lot of things that could happen.”
While the finger is often pointed at young people for lack of interest, Johnson doesn’t believe that is the case for the C&C.
“We need a spark of interest in all age groups in the community, regardless,” Johnson said. “I myself am not a business owner. I am a community member and I purchase goods within the community and I’ve just been interested in being a part of it. I think it is just drawing interest in all age groups, in all areas.“
All three positions (President, Vice President and Secretary/Treasurer) will be open seats, as the current board members are not going to self-nominate themselves.
Canary in the Coal Mine
With the notice of the Heart of the Prairie Days not having enough interest in 2014 gracing the front page of the Advocate Tribune last week, more fuel was added to the flames of the question about another small town’s vitality, and whether or not the future of Clarkfield requires major revitalization.
Neil Linscheid, who is tied to Clarkfield through his residence, family and participation in the Clarkfield Foundation and City Council, also wears the hat of Community Economist for the University of Minnesota Extension, and finds Clarkfield to be far from distress.
“I don’t think it is the canary in the coal mine for everyone in these towns,” Linscheid said. “It is more a story of how people’s preferences or people engaging with each other has changed over time.
Linscheid pointed to other group’s participation, like the firemen, as a sign that vitality still exists in Clarkfield.
“If our thesis is that there are people that are not interested in supporting the community or participating we have a whole bunch of young firemen taking two nights out of their week for like three hours a night for six months to go and be trained as firemen. That doesn’t fit with the thesis that people don’t care, and that young people don’t care. That’s what they care about.”
Linscheid also noted amenities that Clarkfield had to offer that you wouldn’t find in a dying town, like the miniscule number of closed store fronts, a stagnant population, and having facilities that larger communities struggle to find like a grocery store, to show that Clarkfield is not dying, just living in a different light.
“Some groups aren’t getting volunteers, which is very unfortunate, but to apply it to the whole town doesn’t mean that overall a wave of apathy has crashed, it just means we’re just not looking at the right spot,” Linscheid said. “Instead we need to find out where they are involved.”