HELENA — Tuesday morning, the Downtown Helena Inc. board voted unanimously to suspend 2024 event operations and focus on restructuring the organization.
Numerous popular downtown events are currently suspended for the 2024 season including Alive at 5, art walks, and the Festival of Lights.
“Know that we're not giving up. This is the opposite. We're here to do it right. So, we welcome all of you, anybody listening, to come aboard and be a part of this because we need that,” says Board Member of DHI and Rockstarr BBQ Owner, Chris Starr.
Downtown Helena Incorporated is a non-profit that works with business owners to put on events throughout the downtown area. The decision to discontinue these events comes after the organization noted a lack of funding and community support.
In August of this year, former Operations Director, Jordan Conley, stepped down from her position noting difficulty in garnering support from the City of Helena, a faulty permit system, and resistance from the community.
DHI said that its current operating model is not sustainable.
“Our funds are very limited. Our leadership is absent. And we're overwhelmed with the upcoming season and what it takes to put on the events we usually do,” says Starr.
DHI plans to reevaluate and restructure the organization and look at possibly focusing more on facilitating events rather than hosting them.
“We would love to be the facilitator. We would love to be out there helping other organizations put on the events as a guide, not as full responsibility,” says Starr.
The Helena Indian Alliance has already worked with DHI to do exactly this with the Back to School Bash event. Katelyn Griepp, Administration Manager with HIA, says that while it’s not the city’s job to put on events, it is the job of the city and community to support those who do.
“What the city's job and what everyone's job, including community members, is to make that as easy as possible and to be supportive of events,” says Griepp.
Businesses throughout the downtown area were in staunch support of the non-profit during the meeting, agreeing that meetings should continue as well as monetary support during this process.
Sarah Hamblock, President of the Board of DHI and Gold Bar and Western owner, says they need all the community support they can garner as the organization plans its next steps. DHI is looking at all possible options to gather support including individual community membership. There is hope that downtown businesses and community members will help take on more events. Hamblock says that Wednesday morning they are having another meeting to further discuss the future of events and hopes the community shows up to lend their support.
“Yes, we would love to see more grassroots event organization and local groups, local businesses, taking on these events that we have built over the past 30 years,” says Hamblock.