The drama over ownership of Last Thursday continues.
With Mayor Charlie Hales making public appeals for a new group to step up and take the reins of the popular street festival, allies of the organization that just relinquished those reins will seek to rally support during tonight's event.
Rochelle Saliba, a former co-chair of Friends of Last Thursday, plans to circulate letters to vendors this evening, urging their financial support and loyalty to FoLT as "the only community entity we trust to continue stewarding Last Thursday," according to a draft copy obtained by the Mercury.
The move comes days after the group called a press conference to announce it was resigning from its oversight of the event. Since 2011, FoLT had provided security, road barriers and porta-potties for Last Thursdays—a flashpoint in neighborhoods along Alberta because of rowdy and drunken behavior it can bring. But the group had clashed with the mayor's office over the city's request it pay for more of those things.
Since the resignation, Hales has announced the city will pay for barriers, security and toilets at tonight's event, and has sent out a call for groups who might want to assume the volunteer group's place. Meanwhile, FoLT has signalled an intention to resume oversight in July.
"Charlie and co have plans to throw FOLT under the bus, even though FOLT says they’ll be back next month to continue stewarding Last Thursday," Saliba's letter reads. "We know that if the City takes control, the Last Thursday we love will die. Now more than ever we must step up and hold our event in community hands. That takes all of us."
It calls on Last Thursday participants to make donations to the group, and pledge an "ongoing monthly contribution."
There's also a pledge of sorts appended to the draft document. It reads:
FRIENDS OF LAST THURSDAY RALLY ROUND!
Last Thursday is a public good. It is overwhelmingly positive and peaceful, models free speech, nurtures artistic expression and incubates local enterprise. Participants understand the unique intersection of values promoted by this event. Last Thursday is an institution—both internationally known and integral to the fabric of our community—and rightly should be understood as a beacon in our increasingly monitored and corporatized world.
Therefore, by official decree of all true friends of Last Thursday, we affirm,
Our autonomy to freely take possession of the commons of NE Alberta Street, from NE 15 to NE 30th, from 6 to 10 pm on the Last Thursday of the months of May thru September.
Our willingness to give time and/or currency to support the necessary infrastructure to maintain Last Thursday as a free, fair fun and safe event for all participants and neighbors.
Our support of FOLT as our ally and the only community entity we trust to continue to stewarding Last Thursday.
Our declaration that Last Thursday belongs to the community and no organization, government or corporation may usurp or alter the fundamental spirit and organizing principles of this event.
FoLT logistics coordinator Jeff Hilber said he wasn't aware of the letter.
"I think the vendors are with us," Saliba tells the Mercury. "I think our community has always been with us. They never really wanted the mayor's office or the city in it."
Hales will hold a closed meeting on Monday with stakeholders—including FoLT—to discuss the future of the event, spokesman Dana Haynes confirmed. Still no word on how much the city will cough up for tonight's event.