Hay Days committee asks city of Monona for greater financial commitment to event

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

Hay Days committee chair Teresa Graham said this year’s annual June celebration was a successful one, drawing over 1,000 people to Monona—a 22 to 23 percent increase from 2018. 

“But we need the city’s support to pull it off if this is something you want to continue to grow,” she told the Monona Council at its July 1 meeting.

Financially, the committee is just “scraping the barrel,” Graham said. They fundraised thousands of dollars to put on the event, but, after expenses, only a couple hundred dollars remain for next year.

The city has traditionally provided dumpsters and porta potties for Hay Days, and previously facilitated downtown electrical upgrades.

“We appreciate everything the city’s done. We couldn’t do it without the city guys and [police chief] Jo [Amsden]. There have been no problems,” Graham said, “but we need help with liability insurance.”

All outside vendors have their own liability insurance, but some activities do not. Graham said the liability insurance cost for the tractor pull alone was $650 this year. Add that to plans to include a petting zoo next year, and the total could surpass $1,000.

It’s harder to foot that bill when many attractions request money up front, straining the committee’s cash flow.

“We’re trying new and different things to see what works,” Graham stated, “but we just don’t have the money to go forward.”

Council members and mayor Lynn “Marty” Martinson said they would consider the request to cover the liability insurance if the committee could determine a more precise cost.

Graham said further downtown electrical upgrades would be helpful too. 

“When we’re growing, we’ve had a lot of electricity issues,” she explained. “Anyone with a food truck or game, they don’t like having an extension cord over 100 feet.”

Only one machine can be plugged into the street lights per block, so vendors have utilized businesses to access power.

“It’s taken being very creative with the placement of things,” Graham said. “We were using businesses and blowing their circuits.”

Without changes, said Monona Chamber and Economic Development Executive Director Rogeta Halvorson, “we don’t have any more capacity to add food or games. We want to grow attendance, so we don’t want to not have enough food vendors.”

Hay Days is important, Halvorson noted, in that it draws people from all over the area.

“We’re trying to get the word out. We’re trying to build this,” Graham added.

Council considering UTV usage changes

The council is considering updating the city’s ordinance regarding off-road utility vehicle usage.

“My phone hasn’t stopped ringing,” with people wanting access to more streets, said mayor Martinson.

The ordinance currently says UTVs may be operated on city streets and alleys for:

• snow removal via attached snowplow, blade or snow blower

• gardening or lawn work

• appropriate business purposes

• special events authorized by the council

•accessing designated county roadways located within and through the city in accordance with the Clayton County Ordinance #1-2017, “Regulations Regarding Off-road Utility Vehicles.”

They cannot be operated on Main Street and Iowa Street or Center Street from West Street to Egbert Street unless in the act of snow removal or in compliance with UTV regulations noted in the code. Drivers may cross these prohibited streets, however, to reach a county road.

“Every town around us, people can drive them,” Martinson said. “There are two stories out there: I have a business and can use it to get to my job, then if I own one I can travel streets to a direct route out of town.”

When the ordinance was last updated in 2017, councilman Dan Havlicek said the intent was to allow use, but keep people off the most heavily-traveled streets. They didn’t want to see UTVs sitting at the post office and other locations around town.

“But when the city changed it, so many people saw it as a free-for-all,” said councilman Preston Landt. “They’re all going to say they’re on their way to Falcon Avenue,” out of town.

Presently, Havlicek said many residents are taking issue with underage drivers flying through town on the UTVs, without wearing helmets or seat belts. Others are taking them to ballgames.

“I just don’t get it,” he quipped. “Take a car.”

Landt said many residents simply aren’t aware of the rules, or don’t understand them. He felt clarification is necessary.

The council agreed taking out “appropriate business purposes” would cut down on some of the abuse.

“What’s a business purpose if not gardening, lawn mowing or snow removal?” Havlicek questioned. “I don’t know what else it would be.”

He said he would also be open to increased access on Main and Iowa Streets. 

“They’re very visible and they can go over the speed limit,” Martinson noted, and a change could get UTVs off the more residential streets.

The council will consider the first reading of the ordinance amendment at an upcoming meeting.

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