There are big changes coming to this year’s Fur Trade Days celebration.
The Fur Trade Days, Inc., organization announced the changes Friday and presented the proposal to the Chadron City Council Monday.
“We made a decision as a board to relocate and grow the stable of events,” said Miles Bannan Monday. Bannan, who is the city’s vice mayor, is also the vice president of FTD, Inc.
Surveys before and after last year’s event indicated that people were disappointed there was no carnival and cited a lack of family-friendly events, as well as the spread out nature of the activities.
This summer’s event, scheduled for July 11-15, will see the return of a carnival for the first time in several years, and two bands sponsored by the Fur Trade Days board. All of the board-sponsored activities will take place downtown on Main and Second streets, with the carnival, provided by Gary Moore Amusements, expected to set up from Thursday to Saturday with nine rides, five to 10 game stations and a food wagon.
The board also expects to ask the city to close streets downtown to create an enclosed area for a free-flowing street dance, which will encompass the designated area for special liquor sales.
The Brandon Jones Band will perform at a street dance Friday, while the Judd Hoos band will be Saturday’s entertainment. Both bands will take the stage at 9 p.m. Bannan said all of the local liquor license holders have been contacted and fully support the idea of the board providing the entertainment, and the larger SDL space.
“We think it’s going to be a really great change,” Bannan said, noting that the city’s downtown has seen $1 million in infrastructure improvements in recent years. Main Street businesses have also made significant changes to their facades through the downtown revitalization program.
“I’ve heard nothing but excitement,” since the changes were announced, said Councilman Keith Crofutt.
Since many of the Fur Trade Days events are sponsored by individual businesses and organizations, the FTD board is encouraging as many of them as possible to relocate to the downtown area. The board is also interested in bringing new events to the table as well, especially ones that provide family-friendly opportunities.
Bannan said downtown businesses are also encouraged to remain open throughout the weekend, and to consider offering special sidewalk sales or other deals.
“We are excited about the changes and hopeful that we will bring a larger crowd and a bigger economic boost to Chadron for the event,” Bannan said in a written report to the council.
Because of liquor sales, individuals wishing to enter the street dance area will be required to purchase a wristband. While prices for the wristbands have not been released, a press release from the FTD board says they will be sold “for a small fee.”
The shift in philosophy will allow the FTD board to operate the organization and event more as a business enterprise. Bannan noted that it has been difficult to provide quality, board-sponsored entertainment on the current model, which is completely driven by donations and membership fees.
He’s hopeful the changes will be an opportunity to show off the improved downtown area, provide quality entertainment for all ages while creating more economic development for the city.
While many of the details are still yet to be determined, the council was supportive of the changes and indicated a willingness to work with the board on the street closures when the time comes. Crofutt simply asked that the plans take businesses into consideration to ensure that they can still receive deliveries during the event.
“I’m excited about seeing downtown come to life during Fur Trade Days,” said Mayor John Coates.
Also at Monday’s council meeting, Coates announced that he will not be running for re-election this year. Bannan’s and Mark Werner’s seats are also open. Neither of them have yet filed for re-election and did not indicate what their intentions are on Monday.
The council also reviewed building permits issued in 2017.
The city issued a total of 49 permits, an increase of two over 2016. Thirty-four of them were for residential work, ranging from additions or garage construction to new home construction. All but five of the residential permits were inside the city limits, with the remaining handful located in the two-mile zone surrounding the city. The residential permits represented construction of an estimated $837,600.
Thirteen commercial permits were issued, an increase of two from 2016, representing more than $12.7 million in investments.
In all the value of the construction represented by the building permits tallied more than $14 million, an increase of more than $3.6 million from last year.
“We’re very stable,” said Janet Johnson, the city’s building and zoning administrator.
The 2017 permits include the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s new building and the work on the Chadron State College stadium.