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DIFFERENCE MAKER: Fiorella fabulous for Festivals Fredonia

OBSERVER Photo by M.J. Stafford Larry Fiorella, who heads up Festivals Fredonia, poses inside the gazebo on Barker Common in the village. He has been named one of the OBSERVER’s Difference Makers in Community Service.

Festivals Fredonia President Larry Fiorella started out as an observer at the group’s board meetings, and rose to lead it through its current period of expansion.

“I was approached by Mary Jane Starks about five years ago to be a member of the board because they were short on board members,” he said in an interview. “So I sat in on a few meetings and agreed to be on the board — I wasn’t taking any kind of leadership role at that point … and then slowly got involved with the individual festivals but concentrated mostly on the Red, White and Blues festival.”

He co-chaired that festival in 2015. “The weather was horrible that day. It was a great way to get my feet wet, so to speak — and the rest of my body as well,” he joked.

“Slowly but surely I got more involved with the leadership team and was elected to lead as president,” he continued. “I slowly started to rebuild the board, because we only had four people on the board and we’re supposed to have 11.

“Literally the entire board turned over in about a year and a half. Last year when the board was all new — we weren’t at 11, we were at seven, which is fine — I had to co-chair every single festival because no one else really knew how to do it.”

Once Fiorella became president, Festivals Fredonia had two main goals: boost its donations and increase its volunteer base.

Festivals Fredonia started making it a point to approach local businesses in person, in addition to its mail solicitations, to look for sponsorships and donations. Fiorella said raffles and 50-50 and Chinese auctions were also added at festivals. “That was one of the goals, how are we going to better raise capital so that we can ensure we are hosting and putting on the best events we can,” he said. That also helps in Festivals Fredonia’s yearly goal to assist another organization in the Dunkirk-Fredonia area.

“The second (goal) was to build a board of great volunteers that could actually bring in more volunteers,” Fiorella said. “Committees of two or three (for individual festivals) was just too much for people to take on.”

Part of that vision, he added, included the consolidations of the festival committees — completed in December when the Farm Festival committee voted to merge with Festivals Fredonia.

“It makes it easier for planning, and for businesses and individuals to understand now — ‘Oh, Festivals Fredonia is all the festivals now,’ “ Fiorella said. “It was an identity thing — not to lose the identity of specific festivals but to let people know that Fredonia has all these festivals.”

Eventually, Fiorella would like to see the Chamber of Commerce be the “overarching umbrella for all the festivals. They can even be a part of the Grange and the Opera House and the Farmer’s Market.” He said that will help all the organizations draw strength from each other in their efforts to promote Fredonia, its businesses and its recreational opportunities.

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