Dear Zimfest Community:
We hope that you are all doing well and are looking forward to another amazing Zimfest in Monmouth, Oregon, in less than two short months. We are writing at this time to share a decision that the Zimfest Association Board recently made regarding Zimfest 2017. For a variety of reasons as explained further below, the Board is not planning to hold a Festival during the summer of 2017. This was not an easy decision for us to reach; however, we believe that in the long term it will be a positive move for the Festival and the Association. We are open to your constructive input if you have thoughts on this matter. The Board has spent many months in discussions leading up to this decision including a two-day face-to-face retreat on Whidbey Island.
Please review the rationale below – and feel free to email us at with your thoughts.
The Zimfest Association Board
Zimfest 2017 – Rationale for the Decision to Take a Year Off
Why did the Board choose to skip a year in 2017?
- The core members of the organizing committee have remained unchanged for several years and they need a break. The Zimfest community owes a great deal of gratitude to these people. The Board’s decision in no way suggests a failure on the part of these generous volunteers nor on the part of our paid coordinator, Claire Jones.
- We have a wonderful and hard-working community willing to volunteer their time. However, there has been an inadequate response to calls by the Board for volunteers to help with “off-season” festival planning and organizing; difficulty in recruiting for core positions on the yearly Organizing Committees; and insufficient volunteer hours contributed during festivals to ensure smooth operations.
- The infrastructure necessary to run Zimfest (primarily in the form of the software necessary for registration) is not yet self-sufficient and requires a great deal of work each year to develop and sustain. The bulk of this work falls on 2-3 individuals with technical expertise.
- Beginning in 2013 the Board shifted to a centralized organizational model. The benefit of this approach has been to create continuity in organization from year to year while improving and standardizing the underlying processes involved in putting on a Festival. We believe that many improvements have resulted from this approach, but ongoing review of how best to serve the Zimfest community is an important Board responsibility.
- The complexity of organizing Zimfest has increased over the years, in part due to challenges of working with our host facilities. Despite attempts by the Board to identify one or more “semi-permanent homes” for Zimfest to ease these complexities, we are still seeking a good match for our needs.
- The Board recognizes that having local organizing committees can contribute to unique and successful Festivals. Since the site for the 2018 Festival has not yet been selected, the Board encourages any community that is interested in hosting Zimfest 2018 to contact us now so that we can begin discussions at this year’s Festival.
- The Board is responsible for the financial soundness of the Festival. In recent years, the costs associated with putting on Zimfest have increased faster than revenues. During our off year, the board will focus on improving the financial model of the Festival, while keeping the Festival affordable.
What are the benefits of taking a year off?
- It will provide the core organizing team an opportunity to regroup.
- It will provide an opportunity to invest in needed infrastructure (e.g., registration software) with the goal of improving sustainability and reducing reliance on the same people year after year.
- It will allow focus on finding a site for 2018 that has the potential to become a semi-permanent home for Zimfest while remaining open to a local committee organizing Zimfest in their community.
- We are hoping that the Zimfest Community will choose to come out in force to support Zimfest in 2016. By increasing participation and revenue, we hope to enter our off-year with funds in the bank which we can invest in improving and sustaining the Festival.
- We also hope that after a year off, the 2018 Festival will have strong participation.
What are the risks and downsides of taking a year off?
- We will all miss an opportunity to gather as a community in 2017 to celebrate Zimbabwean music, as we have done since 1991.
- There is potential for negative financial impact on our Zimbabwean teachers. We feel we can best serve our Zimbabwean teachers over the long term by taking this break to focus on Festival sustainability.
- There is the possibility that skipping a year might reduce momentum in the community to help organize and attend future Zimfests.
The Board is dedicated to working diligently over the next year to improve the sustainability of Zimfest and ensure a very successful Festival in 2018. We encourage Zimfest community members to consider service on the Zimfest Association Board, the 2018 organizing committee, or to contact us to see how you can help keep the Zimfest spirit alive and thriving.
I’m sure this was a difficult decision but it sounds like you’ve arrived at it after careful deliberation. Perhaps a bi-annual cycle will serve the community well going forward. I wish you a great 2016 Zimfest, a break filled with renewal and insight, and the best in the future.
I am sorry to hear that Zimfest won’t be happening in 2017 and that the site may move out of the Monmouth area. What a loss for the communities (the town/the entertainers/etc). Here’s hoping the community pulls together to pull it off. Have you talked to the Oregon Country Fair about a grant? Sounds like much thought has gone into this. See you at the Zimfest.
I was in a local coffee shop here today in Monmouth (Saturday morning of Zimfest). Six men who meet for coffee every morning (6 days a week) told me that they hoped we would keep the festival here every year. They enjoyed Boka’s performance in the park Wednesday and are glad we are sharing this music in their community this weekend. I did not mention that we were planning a year off, but I appreciated their welcoming attitude.
A Monmouth city councilman (who is running for mayor) came up to my booth on Friday and talked to me for 20 minutes about how much he loved Zimfest. He said he would do everything in his power to make Monmouth our “permanent” home.