GENOA CITY — For the first time in 36 years, the Genoa City Lions Days festival is no more.
Organizers have announced the cancellation of the three-day summer festival and fundraiser that featured live music, a fishing derby, a parade and much more.
The Genoa City Lions Club, which organized the yearly festival, said the event was being cancelled because of a decline in both the club’s membership and the festival’s attendance numbers.
Club President Kerrie Molter said the decision to drop the summer event was difficult.
“It was with much thought and discussion that we have come to this decision,” Molter said in a prepared statement.
“Times have changed,” she added. “The dynamics of our club have also changed.”
Community leaders are mourning the loss of Genoa City’s marquee summer event, which was based at Veterans Park and held in early August.
Village Trustee Cheri Boroweic expressed frustration at the loss of what she described as an essential part of a summer in Genoa City.
“I’m very, very disappointed that they couldn’t pull it together, but I truly understand exactly why they can’t,” Boroweic said. “It involves a lot of people and activities that they just don’t have.”
The lions club, which formed in 1960, organized and ran the festival to raise funds for community improvement work.
The club refurbished a pair of bridges that cross the Nippersink Creek in Veterans Park on County Highway H. The club also has helped build and maintain the playground, skate park and pavilion in that same area.
Village President Bill Antti said he was disappointed to see the tradition end, but he was not surprised, saying he noticed the event’s steadily declining attendance.
“It was very good for the community,” Antti said. “Unfortunately, things change. And it’s one of those things that fell by the wayside.”
He added: “Maybe something else will come along and replace it.”
Molter said attendance at the festival has dwindled, which in turn has reduced the funds raised for the club.
The group plans a raffle later this month and a golf outing in August at the Nippersink Golf Club in August. More possible events are in discussion, but nothing else is solidified, Molter said.
“We are looking into other options for our fundraising projects that will fit with the community and the available membership we have in our club,” she said.
Police Chief Joe Balog, who has led the Lions Days parade since 2012, said he and his family always looked forward to the festivities.
“It is a shame,” Balog said of the cancellation. “It will definitely be missed.”
The police chief said he would particularly miss the Nippersink Creek fishing derby.
“There is nothing greater than the look on a child’s face when he or she hooks a big fish, especially for the first time,” he said.
The festival also has included mud bog races, carnival games, a horseshoe tournament, ice cream social and bingo games.
Boroweic said village leaders receive plenty of positive feedback on the impact of such community events and programs, but finding volunteers has been a struggle lately.
Despite consistent outreach efforts — such as promoting volunteer opportunities on the website, signboards, and even inside water bills — the village is seeing few volunteers step forward.
“We have wonderful programs that cannot go anywhere right now,” Boroweic said. “If you’re part of a community, you need to involve yourself. Without that, we can’t do anything.”
While the lions club is letting go of Genoa City Days, Boroweic said village officials have discussed the possibility of running a similar event. But the idea is still just in talking stages.
“We need something like that,” she said. “We’ve always needed something like that.”