|Cover Story: The Maryland Lighthouse Challenge Takes a Break
by: Karen Rosage
|Tough times sometimes call for tough measures, and such is the case with the Maryland Lighthouse Challenge. Since its inception back in 2003, the Challenge has been held annually. The major sponsors of the event have been the Maryland counties in which the Challenge lights reside. With the current budget crisis here in the state, and its trickle down effect on the counties, this became a major factor for us when considering whether or not to host a 2010 event. Early solicitation of the sponsors left real uncertainty as to whether many/if any of them would be able to contribute to this year’s event, pending word from state officials on anticipated budget cuts within the tourism department. Many of the tourism representatives expressed to me their sincere desire to sponsor a 2010 event, but none were able to commit, as they were expecting that the ax may fall–which it then did, with severe cuts to their 2010 operating budgets.
While always a competitive process, in addition to the county funding, we have also been awarded a few grants over the years to help fund the event. The past has shown, however, that the grant opportunities for an “annual” event of this kind are few and far between. With limited $$ now available statewide, the prospect of being awarded grant money from any source here in the state seemed daunting.
Hence, our first 2010 “challenge” – uncertain funding.
While this alone would have been enough for us to take pause – we had some other considerations as well.
The second dilemma we faced was a conflict with our “third weekend in September” dates for some of our key volunteers. Most of you know, the Challenge committee is comprised of a very few dedicated volunteers. In such a small group, losing any one of them, much less a few, can have a very debilitating effect. While we had pondered a date change early on, we decided against it as we felt it unlikely we could come up with a date that would work for all parties, particularly the lighthouse groups – many of which have other activities planned within the September timeframe.
It is important to note here, too, that the Maryland Lighthouse Challenge planning is very summer intense and some of our key volunteers, me included, were already experiencing some degree of burn-out at the conclusion of last year’s event. In light of the growing list of challenges that were presenting themselves one by one, concomitant with the wariness of some committee members following the highly successful, but draining 2009 event planning, there became a growing realization that a one-year hiatus was not beyond the realm of possibilities and something that we should seriously consider.
With word in the interim that our New Jersey and Long Island counterparts had opted not to host 2010 events; and, as a consequence we would be losing our DOUBLE and TRIPLE Challenge incentives, the difficult decision was made that, all things considered, we would skip 2010 and look ahead to 2011.
Having said that, I can tell you the decision was a very hard one to make. Grueling would not be much of an overstatement! After seven consecutive years, the Challenge has become part of our lives and of our yearly routine. Although in the end it was a joint decision made by the committee to postpone—it only seemed palatable with an accompanying promise and commitment to one another and to our supporters, that the Maryland Lighthouse Challenge would be back – and better than ever – come 2011. AND IT WILL!!
Rest assured and to contradict anyone who may state otherwise, the Maryland Lighthouse Challenge is in no way dead or in jeopardy. In fact, far from it! In the coming months, the committee will be looking at new and innovative ways to grow the event. Hopefully in 2011 the Maryland economy will be back on track as well and that will bode well in terms of funding and even increased event participation.
Likewise I know that a much needed break will find committee members rejuvenated and back in the swing of event planning with every bit of the signature enthusiasm that has become the hallmark of this event. I think I express the sentiments of all Challenge committee members (past and present) as I reminisce with a sense of pride and accomplishment over these past seven years. And as I look to future years, I see them being every bit as rewarding, and YES! - every bit as “challenging!” This has been an exciting ride that we’re not about to let end!
Stay tuned for updates, via future newsletters, and MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR THE NEXT MARYLAND LIGHTHOUSE CHALLENGE – SEPTEMBER 17-18, 2011!
As always, if you have any thoughts, comments and/or suggestions regarding the Maryland Lighthouse Challenge, you can direct them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (410) 437-0741. I would love to hear from you.
The support and participation of our members has always been an integral component to the continuing success of the Challenge, now recognized as Maryland’s “premier” lighthouse event!
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