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The Venetian Festival of Lake Geneva has become a time of wonder among the children who live anywhere near the north end of Lake Geneva.
During the month of August, and this has been the case for fifty-six years, the Jaycees put on this show, starting out in 1962 with merely a candle-lit boat parade. Well, it’s not that anymore. The organizations that make money, because the Jaycees masterfully organize this event, are many:

  1. The Lake Geneva Police Dept.
  2. The Lake Geneva Fire Dept.
  3. Geneva Lakes YMCA,
  4. Badger High School Scholarships,
  5. Cub Scouts,
  6. United Way,
  7. Big Brother’s Big Sisters,
  8. Beat the Heat, VIP Services,
  9. Special Olympics Dream Team,
  10. Adult Special Olympics,
  11. WC Food Pantry,
  12. Lake Geneva Food Pantry,
  13. SMILES,
  14. Geneva Lake Water Safety Patrol
  15. Habitat For Humanity.

This list does not include the charitable operations that run booths on the grounds during the celebration, like the Lions and the American Legion.

The Geneva Shore Report ran a story last week about how many of the local small businesses are not happy with the festival because of the “what happens at the festival stays at the festival” kind of situation. In other words, people buy their food on the grounds and not in the town itself. They come and exhaust themselves walking around the grounds and riding the rides. Then they go home. The businesses would like to see more interaction with local business. But what about the children? And how many business days does the festival occupy? Four evenings and two half days. That doesn’t seem too much for such an entertaining and popular venue to command. What about the money? How much do the Jaycees really take in from the event? How much do the booths generate in gross revenue? What is the real expense to the city when you consider police and fire presence, the closing of the municipal boat ramp, the missed revenue from parking, the damage to the park from all the foot traffic and finally the cost of putting up all the barriers and taking them down?

Those costs are calculable, but not generally published. How much does the carnival part of the event get paid, and how much goes out to the rather significant (and powerfully entertaining) rock and country groups? The Venetian Festival could well profit from meeting with Ed over at the “Visit Lake Geneva outfit.” Ed has more brilliant ideas for building the community than can be described in any one GSR issue. What might he come up with as a bridge to the businesses in town? How to better squeeze a bit more revenue from the visiting population and direct that spending to the small businesses that see their own revenue drop during the celebration might be a great place to start.

It’s uncommon for small communities like Lake Geneva, with less than eight thousand residents, and slow growth (1990 Lake Geneva census reported 7,651 and 2017 was 7,821 living residents), to be able to throw a fest that brings in forty to sixty thousand people from all over the state and Illinois. How to make sure that the cost and then the profit from such a grand venture is maximized is what “Visit Lake Geneva” is all about.

The Jaycees have done a fabulous job of not only creating and operating the event but also in connecting it to the grand boat parade on the last Sunday night of the festival and the terrific fireworks show everyone stays on into the night for. Nice work Jaycees. The community needs to help modify and then support the Jaycees even more!


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