The headline was ominous.
“End of Worth Days near?” was the headline in the Aug. 28, 2003 version of the Reporter.
“Worth Days may only be a memory after this year’s celebration,” then-Reporter writer Jason Maholy wrote. “…unless a group is organized to raise money for the fest. The Worth Day Committee, which raises 98 percent of the funds for Worth Days, will be disbanded later this year because of a lack of volunteers…”
Money was also an issue. The fest has been going on since the late 1940s and it appeared to be on its last gasp in 2003.
As organizers get ready for the 2013 version, we all know the end did not happen. It was a white-knuckle ride for a little while but the fest survived.
At the time, though, things didn’t look promising.
“As it stands now, it’s no more Worth Days after Sept. 7,” committee member Betty Witte said in an editorial in the Aug. 28 edition of the paper.
Worth Day Committee Treasurer James Kennelly, sensing the end was near, said the 2003 fest “should be the best, yet. We’ll go out with a bang.”
All of this talk about the end of the Worth Days event did not sit well with then-Mayor Edward Guzdziol, who was determined to save the fest. He called a special meeting in late August and proclaimed “There will be a Worth Days in 2004.”
Others weren’t so sure.
“It’s not going to happen next year,” Worth Days Committee member Dean Cashman told the Reporter. “Unless you can just magically come up with 70 grand you can’t have the kind of fest you’re going to see this year. None of them have any idea on how to fund it.”
The 2003 version of the fest did go out with a bang, but not the type Kennelly was talking about. A car crashed into the Worth Park District Terrace Center before the bingo event was to take place but no one was injured.
In late September, Guzdziol, former mayor Dan Kumingo and 20 worth residents got together for another special meeting. Marrs-Meyer American Legion Post 991 officials said they would oversee the fest, which was scheduled to go through some changes, including change of dates and venue.
Cashman remained unconvinced and said he didn’t think there would be a Worth Day festival in 2004.
Eventually a new Worth Days Festival Commission was formed to replace the Worth Days Committee.
On Sept. 9, 2004, Worth Days kicked off at the 115th Street and Beloit Ave. There was a charge for the carnival for the first time in the history of the fest to help defray some of the cost.
“We wish we could have free rides but with our budget, it just wasn’t a possibility,” Guzdziol said.
High school acts and smaller acts volunteered to entertain for free to help save more money. Approximately 150 people volunteered to help with the event.
After it was over, Guzdziol called it a “perfect” weekend.
The white-knuckle ride was over and the fest has lived on.