Lackluster attendance at the 2017 Reggae on the River at French’s Camp in early August has left the Mateel Community Center, which organizes the festival, with funding issues.
The funding issues leave the Mateel center with an uncertain future.
Reggae has been the Mateel’s biggest fundraiser for the past 33 years, Mateel Community Center general manager Justin Crellin.
“Reggae on the River took a loss this year. It was the first year in recent times that it has been a loss,” he said.
The public is invited to a meeting to discuss where the center is at and brainstorm fundraising ideas is scheduled on the evening of Sept. 19 at the center in Redway. Crellin wouldn’t provide the Redwood Times exact attendance or revenue numbers, instead he asked people interested in those details to come to the meeting later this month.
“I fell like for the larger numbers part, we want to steer people to the Sept. 19th meeting,” he said. “ … We’re going to fill in the details about our current situation.”
The Mateel is an integral part of the Southern Humboldt County community, Crellin said. It serves as a community space for weddings, funerals, memorials, youth services, meetings, arts, entertainment and more. It also attracts large musical acts throughout the year, some of which don’t play shows in Arcata or Eureka, that in turn attract hundreds of people from surrounding areas.
Both the newly formed Southern Humboldt Business and Visitors Bureau and established Southern Humboldt Chamber of Commerce recognize the importance of the Mateel to Southern Humboldt.
“That was a little bit disheartening to hear,” chamber executive director Jenny Early said about when she caught wind of the funding woes.
She said she’s been to shows at the Mateel and that the chamber supports the center.
“I definitely do not want to see the Mateel Community Center go away because I feel it can be a hub for the area,” Early said.
She said this possibility is concerning.
“They hold a lot of events and a lot of really awesome things at the Mateel. They’re a big impact on the community,” Early said.
Bureau board member Laura Lasseter said this is a part of larger changes across Southern Humboldt County that all businesses are working to adapt to.
“Our bureau definitely recognizes the Mateel Community Center beyond a local community center, it brings in visitors and is a destination venue which in turn affects more avenues of the Southern Humboldt tourism industry,” she said.
Lasseter and Early expressed interest in having representatives of their respective organizations at the September meeting to take part in the conversation.
“I’m glad they’re looking for some community input and hopefully they will come up with a solution to be sustainable and serve the community,” Humboldt County 2nd District Supervisor Estelle Fennell.
Crellin said Reggae has been the Mateel’s “bread and butter” fundraiser over the past three decades. It has other funding sources but relies heavily on the chunk of change Reggae brings in, he said.
“It’s always been the cornerstone for funding the community center,” he said.
Crellin said he hopes the meeting has a good turnout so ideas can be tossed around, information can be shared, and questions can be answered during a discussion about the what the community wants from the mMteel.
“Between now and that meeting, we expect to have more information coming in about those various (funding) options available to us,” he said.
“This is the first step in a large conversation the community needs to have.”