For the first time in 22 years, the annual Havre de Grace Arts Commission fundraiser gala has been canceled. That's not to say, however, there won't be one later this year.
"They're very sad," commission chair Pat Fair said of the group's overall feeling.
According to Fair, the commission decided Wednesday to cancel the event, which was scheduled to be held Jan. 28 at the Havre de Grace Community Center, because of lack of ticket sales.
This will be the first gala to be canceled in the commission's 22-year history of holding the event.
She called the events "my life's passion for 22 years" and sounded disappointed the decision had to be made. Fair and the commission, however, hope to reschedule the event for the spring.
Attendance at the gala has been dwindling the last five years, Fair mentioned, because the Upper Chesapeake Health Foundation's Red Pump Ball is the week after their event. This year the Red Pump Ball is Feb. 4 at the Residents Club at Bulle Rock.
There are people "that used to come to our dance [that] have decided to go to the Red Pump Ball," she explained. With the two fundraisers being similar and only one week apart, Fair understands that families most likely have to make a choice between the two.
"It's their choice and it's for a very good cause," Fair said. "I do understand that."
With that added yearly event, though, the arts commission gala has gone from turning people away when they're at full capacity — 250 people — to last year having an attendance of 185.
"It was worth doing," she said about last year's event. This year proved to be more difficult, with fewer than 100 tickets sold.
Fair explained that the group was hoping to have the majority of tickets sold by this Saturday. With the likelihood of that not happening and much more work needed for the event, the commission decided it would be best to stop putting things together only to have to undo everything a few days later.
"We spend weeks and months painting and planning and building," she said about the work that goes into the event. The gala's silent auction would also not have done so well if less than 100 people were in attendance.
"It's just not going to work," Fair reiterated.
Not all hope is lost, however.
"What we're doing at this point is looking forward to the spring when there isn't a whole lot of things going on," she said. The commission already has piñatas, hats, backdrops and other decorations for the gala's theme — Fiesta. The fundraiser could still be held at the community center or another venue in the city.
It's important for the arts commission, which has been around for 24 years, to raise money, which goes toward annual events in Havre de Grace, such as the summer concerts in the park, the Children's Art Festival and the Graw Days Festival.
Fair added that the commission is hoping to bring back performances from the Lyric Opera House and Shakespeare in the Park.
"We have some money in the bank to do that," she said, "but the future depends on whether we can raise more money."
The group isn't giving up on the prospect of bringing a full array of arts events to the city this year.
"The morale [of the commission] is good in that we're hoping we can have something in the spring when we're not competing with other events in the same area," Fair said. "We hope people will keep in tune with us and we'll let them know as soon as we can about plans for an event in the spring."