Sunflower Days Officially Back On in 2019

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MTT News's picture
Kevin Murphy

MIDDLETON–Sunflower Days are back.

After a year’s absence, the celebration of acres of the giant bright, blooming flowers returns to Pope Farm Conservancy this August as a town of Middleton sponsored event, managed by a local bicycling racing event firm.

The town board approved a plan by Race Day Events that for the first time charges a $3 admission, children 10 and under free, and $5 for parking or a shuttle bus ride.

“We’re here to solve the problems you had the last time. We’ll deal with parking, logistics and the crowd,” Ryan Griessmeyer, Race Day Events president, told the board Monday night.

Sunflower Days is set for a 10-day between Aug. 16-25. New this year is 5K Trail Run scheduled Aug. 22 that starts and finishes in nearby Pioneer Park. An extra fee will be charged for the run.

Race Day projects a $20,820 profit returned to the town from its $150,250 event budget. Revenue sources include $120,000 from admissions, $5,000 each from parking and shuttle fees, $15,000 in sponsorships, $2,000 in food and drink sales, $2,500 from sales of sunflowers and seeds and $750 from the 5K run entrants.

Race Day will keep 20 percent of the cash sponsorships and split profits from the 5K run, and from the sales of food and drink, sunflowers and seeds.

Costs total $129,430 including Race Day’s $20,000 management fee, $4,750 for planning $11,000 to create a logo and marketing expense, $69,080 ticketing, security and other labor costs, $10,000 for equipment, $5,000 for toilets, $5,600 for shuttle busses and $3,000 for signage.

Race Day will staff the event with eight people from 5 a.m.-9 p.m. daily to take admission fees, assist visitors and keep order. Staff will consist of Race Day and security company employees.

Sunflowers will be planted in May and marketing the event begins along with securing sponsors.

Race Day will manage the event in its entirety negotiating and security contracts, sponsorships for cash and in-kind goods donations, operating the ticketing and donation software. It has scheduled two days to tear down and clean up after the event.

Not everyone is thrilled about the return of the event that brings thousands of people daily to the normally tranquil 105-acre conservancy. Others voiced a philosophical opposition.

“There is something wrong about this. How can you charge for nature,” one woman asked after Race Days presentation.

Eager to resume the town’s highest profile annual event, the board voted unanimously, with Supervisors Thomas Stemrich and Paul Connell absent, to approve Race Day’s plans.

For about the past 10 years, Sunflower Days had been run by volunteers, including the Friends of Pope Farm Conservancy since 2013, until 2017 when attendance reached an estimated 90,000 and raised concerns about traffic and pedestrian safety especially along two-lane Old Sauk Rd.

The Friends group told the town board last spring it could no longer head the event and the board, using room tax revenue began looking for ways to continue the popular summer event.

In other action the board:

• was informed of Paul Connell’s resignation from the town board effective April 1. At that time, the board will consider appointing someone to fill the balance of his term;

• approved a $15,000 payment to Vierbicher Associates for preliminary design of a storm water detention facility in Stonebrook Estates;

• accepted an $8,800 self-funded work plan by the Friends of Pope Farm Conservancy for weed control and other restoration and management activities at the property.

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