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Jackson Board of Aldermen discuss possible changes for 2020 Homecomers

The sights, sounds and flavors of this year’s Homecomers
celebration are now but a memory, but the Jackson Board of Aldermen is already
discussing next year’s celebration.

This past summer, representatives from businesses on South
High Street had appeared before the Board to complain that closing their street
for a week during Homecomers put undue hardship on their businesses. Potential
customers could not easily get to their businesses during the day, even though
Homecomers doesn’t start until 6 p.m. each night. They requested that the
street closures be made for just Thursday-Saturday.

The Aldermen decided at the time that it was too late to
make any changes for 2019. However, they would consider changes in location or
hours of operation for 2020.

Many members of the American Legion attended the Board of
Aldermen study session Aug. 19 to show support for their major fund-raiser.
(Last year, the American Legion Post 158 of Jackson donated more than $13,800
to various projects in the Jackson area. Those funds are generated by

One possible solution for 2020 is to move Homecomers. No one
wanted Homecomers moved to City Park.

One idea that has been discussed is to move Homecomers from
Main Street and the courthouse lawn one block south. It would utilize parking
lots belonging to the First Baptist Church and city streets all the way to the
city cemetery.

There were several problems with this location. Some of
these areas are not conducive to setting up the bigger rides. The Elks beer
garden would have to be placed on Madison Street next to a building used by the
Baptist Church for youth activities.

The audience for activities on the stage would be sitting in
the sun during evening hours and some feel it would be disrespectful to place
an entertainment stage next to the cemetery. In addition, some children may
play in the cemetery because of its close proximity to the stage.

The City has said it can install water and electrical
hook-ups at this location for the food booths and rides, but those hook-ups are
already installed on Main Street.

Larry Koehler, chairman of the Legion’s Homecomers
Committee, said many peo-ple told him they did not think Homecomers should be
moved. He recommended that they contact their alderman.

A Facebook poll reported that 75 percent of 605 respondents
did not want Homecomers moved from its current location.

Koehler presented a petition with 219 signatures of people
who wanted to keep Homecomers where it is.

Koehler said Homecomers was moved to this southerly location
one year in the past, but it was not successful in that location. “It tanked,”
he said.

Tim Miller, a representative from the Baptist church, said
the church’s rank and file must approve the use of its parking lots, and they
would not approve of a beer garden next to its youth activity center. “As a
member of the corporation and a member of the church, I can assure you that if
you want to put the sale and use of alcoholic beverages in front of our
property, that is not going to fly,” he said.

Koehler said Homecomers has been a tradition before any of
the Uptown Jackson business owners were born. This past year was its 111th
year. The business owners knew it was a tradition before they opened their
businesses in Uptown Jackson.

Koehler asked the City not to move Homecomers from its
regular location. “I honestly believe it will be the death of Homecomers,” he

Tyler Wolfsberger, president of the Uptown Jackson
Revitalization Organization, said his organization supports the Uptown
merchants in their efforts to stop restriction of trade, but it also does not
ignore the historical significance of Homecomers. It supports shortening the
event to three days with Saturday being open all day. It also supports the move
to the south, but has concerns about protecting the cemetery.

Brian Gerau, president of the Jackson Area Chamber of
Commerce, said his organization thinks the move one block south is the best
option. He said it would also support shortening the celebration to three days.

Bev Nelson, a member of UJRO and chairperson of the
Homecomers Project for First Baptist Church, chided the American Legion and
Uptown merchants for not getting along and shedding a negative light on what
most people consider to be a city celebration.

She offered several suggestions which she thought could
improve the situation, such as merchants opening their back doors to customers
(as their back doors are closer to parking lots), increased advertising,
remaining open at night, gift cards and gift basket giveaways, etc.

She also offered suggestions to the Legion for improving

“So let’s come together, work together, and succeed
together,” she concluded.

Alderman Larry Cunning-ham said he was “very disappointed”
that the American Legion and Uptown merchants could not reach a compromise.

Mayor Dwain Hahs noted that according to one historical
flyer provided by the American Legion, Homecomers began as a three-day
celebration which lasted Thursday through Saturday. He says that seems to be
what other communities have. “Five days is a pretty long event,” he said. It is
a long time to disrupt traffic on city streets.

He reminded everyone that as aldermen, their job was simply
to approve or deny a request for street closures, not to decide how long a
celebration should last.

Alderman Katy Liley said she was opposed to moving
Homecomers from the courthouse lawn and city streets to private property
(church parking lots). She felt a three-day celebration “would be ideal.”
Spread out over five days, the event has become “watered down,” she said.

Koehler cautioned that bad weather on one or two nights
during a five-days celebration will adversely affect the funds raised by the
American Legion. Some of that can be made up on the other days. However, if bad
weather occurs on one or two nights of a three-day celebration, there would be
no way to recover the lost funds.

Another problem with a three-day festival is that the
carnival will not provide as many rides when there are only three days.

In other discussion:

• Revenue resouces: Caleb Fjone, a summer intern from
Southeast Missouri State University, gave a report on suggestions the City
could use to increase non-tax revenue.

• Pavilion: The Board gave a head-nod for City staff to
proceed with plans to rebuild Pavilion No. 5 in City Park, which was destroyed
by a June 21 storm. It is estimated that a same-sized pavilion could be built
for about $40,000. The City will get $20,000 from insurance for the destroyed
pavilion. The Optimists are willing to give “a big donation” toward the
rebuilding of that pavilion. Combining the insurance money and donation, the
City may get the pavilion rebuilt without using much, if any, city funds.

Meanwhile, because there is an interest in a bigger pavilion
with attached rest- rooms, and the Municipal Band Board is interested in a new
pavilion closer to the band shell, the city staff will look into building a
bigger shelter sometime in the future, using the Band Board donation and
perhaps grant money. This will be a long-range project that could take two to
three years.

• Historic preservation: the Historic Preservation
Commission often has problems reaching a quorum of members for meetings. It was
suggested that alternate members be appointed so an alternate can meet with the
Board to make a quorum if necessary. An amendment to the Code of Ordinances to
make this change will be voted upon at the next Board of Aldermen meeting
tonight (Sept. 4).

The Board also will give a resolution of support for a
$15,000 Missouri department of Natural resources Historic Preservation grant.
One purpose of the grant will be to hire an expert to decide the proper
boundary for Jackson’s historic district.

Gregory Dullum has worked for The Cash-Book Journal for more than 25 years. Prior to becoming the editor in May 2017, he was production manager, circulation manager and reporter. Before moving to Cape Girardeau in 1988, he was editor of the Saint Louis Park Sailor, a weekly community newspaper in suburban Minneapolis, MN. A native of Minnesota, he returned there after graduating with distinction in 1978 from Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, with a degree in mass communications. His wife, Marie, whom he met in college, is a native of Zalma, a small town in southeast Missouri. They have two grown daughters and five grandchildren. Gregory may be reached at

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