COTTAGE GROVE — While the festival is set to kick off this weekend, the future of Bohemia Mining Days is being discussed in the city council chambers.
BMD coordinators requested that BMD and the City strike a financial partnership — a partnership that the festival coordinators say is crucial to ensure the future of BMD.
“If we do not get City support next year, there will be no Bohemia Mining Days,” said Scott Borgioli, BMD festival coordinator. “I can tell you that with 100% certainty.”
Cottage Grove’s City Council met June 26 during a budget hearing on whether or not the City can integrate half BMD’s budget on its own community projects budget.
At a previous meeting, Borgioli requested that the City pay half of the BMD budget, about $40,000 to help make up for financial hits as a result of the pandemic.
Borgioli also said that the festival has never been financially stable, and the festival needs a partner to help absorb costs. The remaining part of the budget would be paid for through BMD fundraising efforts.
The budget is “bare-bones,” with little wiggle room, said Borgioli.
“This request for financial assistance from the City is one of the largest I’ve seen in around 20 years on the Budget Committee,” said Mike Fleck, city councilor.
In years prior, an American Rescue COVID grant assisted in replacing lost revenue from 2020 to 2021, Borgioli said.
This year, BMD barely limped the start line, falling $20,000 short of its budget three months before the festival. BMD was able to scrape by this year after receiving large sponsorships by the Woodard Family Foundation and Starfire Lumber.
“Without our two presenting sponsors, BMD would definitely have been cancelled this year. No question about that,” Borgioli said.
Joel Reiten, BMD president, has been involved with the event since 2008 and has been president since 2019. He said that BMD is an integral part of Cottage Grove’s identity. Without the event, Cottage Grove risks losing historical aspects that make the town unique.
“In its heyday, Cottage Grove was a thriving community. Now Cottage Grove is basically a bedroom community for Eugene,” Reiten said.
BMD allows for Cottage Grove residents to remember and celebrate the rich history of “Bohemia’s golden years.” Event-goers can time travel back to pioneer times with activities like “Miss Bohemia City Miner” and “Ore Cart Races.”
A Cottage Grove tradition that has been going strong for 64 years, BMD now has an uncertain future, and Borgioli believes this year may very well be the last.
“How do we retain our identity of Cottage Grove and not become just another small town? … I realize BMD isn’t the only way to make that happen, but it is a good way to make it happen and it’s a way we’ve been doing this since 1955,” Reiten said.
Timing is off for this request, according to Greg Ervin, councilor. The City’s fiscal year runs through June 2024, and the next festival is in July 2024, missing the window to be considered for this budget cycle.
Furthermore, Councilor Fleck requested copies of BMD’s financials during the budget meeting in order to aid in council decision.
While the city council was unable to come to a decision in providing BMD with a portion of its budget during the meeting, council instead is forming a sub-comittee that can help review and consider financial options for BMD. Councilors Chalice Savage, Ervin, and Fleck were appointed to that committee.
“It’s a hugely important festival, just culturally. We can all come together and have a good time.” Ervin said.