It's been more than the year since a nonprofit group that for years helped organize Alberta's Last Thursday festival held a press conference to announce they were quitting.
Friends of Last Thursday (FoLT) resigned over new strictures on the freewheeling event proposed by Mayor Charlie Hales—changes that have since been realized—and left the mayor's office looking for another organization to take up the cause.
Now that organization is perhaps in the works. Michael O'Connor, a former FoLT member who took off in 2012 to begin a new street fair in southeast, sent out a release Monday night announcing a fundraiser this week for a new organizing group.
"Our current vision is to form an organization of artists, musicians, performers, and fun makers," O'Connor wrote.
"These are the people that make Last Thursday the incredible event that it is."
O'Connor says the group he has in mind will oversee the "infrastructure, management, and support needed to make Last Thursday the best that it can be." It would use grants and fundraising, apparently, to cover the sizable costs associated with Last Thursday. Hales' office estimates the city spent $75,000-80,000 running the event last year.
O'Connor also takes exception with Hales' handling of the event recently. He writes: "In particular, the City recently began fining musicians who can be heard from 150 feet away, and plans to charge participants fees and collect their personal information. We believe that a better solution is possible, and we will do everything we can to alleviate the City’s concerns while preserving the rights of our community."
But it's unclear whether the mayor's office would be willing to let its new regulations lapse. Officials and some neighbors view them as valuable to toning down what can be a raucous and problematic event. O'Connor says he's been in frequent contact with the mayor's office, and that he's not aware of any conditions on his group's stewardship. He says he'll push for different solutions than those the mayor has imposed.
"Any conditions they set, they'll have to have a legal right to do so," he tells the Mercury. "We have legal representation through the ACLU that is helping us make sure."
Update, 3:30 pm: The mayor's office says it's true O'Connor has called and e-mailed about his ideas. He even had an attorney call. But Hales' staff will need to see financial legitimacy before handing over the reins of last Thursday, says Policy Assistant Chad Stover.
"What it boils down to, for my side, is clearly understanding the logistics and the costs," Stover says. "We need a group that can step up and has the appropriate funding capabilities."
Just what all that means is sort of up in the air, Stover says. Police details for the event cost less now that Last Thursday ends an hour earlier, and there may be less police required overall. It's not clear exactly what costs will be associated with the event going forward, right now, so demanding a specific cash outlay from a nonprofit is tough.
"I'm hoping when we do get to that point we'll be able to say, 'these are some things that are recommended and need to be covered, and here are the costs for doing it,'" Stover says.