Pioneer Days needs supporters

The first pitch drops today at the Negaunee Alumni Softball Tournament at LaCombe Field, signaling the start of the annual Pioneer Days celebration in Negaunee.

But those who enjoy the festivities that make Pioneer Week a time for celebration by residents and visitors alike should be aware funding trouble looms for this special time in Irontown USA.

Festival organizers have expressed concern that financing for the 39th annual event may fall short. Pioneer Days started in 1979 as a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the community’s first graduating class and has continued all these years, with the schedule sometimes including new items and sometimes seeing other events cease.

The Negaunee Irontown Association, a volunteer group, works diligently all year long to plan and to help raise money for Pioneer Days, something some revelers might not think about. In a recent Mining Journal story, Irontown Association President Ann Ducoli said each event the organization sponsors has a price tag, and the cost to put on all the events is in the tens of thousands of dollars.

“I really don’t think that people realize how much this all costs,” Ducoli said. “Approximately $35,000 to $40,000 is needed each year. To date, I believe we have received approximately $13,000.”

Pioneer Days is a boon to the community in that the events bring in hundreds and hundreds of people, those who live here year round and those who return to celebrate. Many Negaunee High School graduating classes plan class reunions and other gatherings during this special week.

We hope that everyone who enjoys any Pioneer Days event this week takes a moment to consider that without more support, that event might disappear. In the most dire scenario, they might all vanish.

As Ducoli detailed in The Mining Journal story by staff writer Lisa Bowers, the spectacular fireworks that cap the celebration on the Saturday night of Pioneer Days come with a price tag of $12,000 to $15,000 per year for the fireworks plus $800 added for the barge on which they are kept and set off.

Other estimated costs are: the Alumni Softball Tournament is $3,150; the community picnic is $2,200; the Pioneer Princess pageant is $700 and the parade is $700. All that gets added to the $9,000 in administrative costs associated with the festival, which include printing, postage, liability insurance, an accountant, fees to maintain non-profit status and sponsorship cards just to name a few.

Some individuals purchase Irontown memberships and many local business are sponsors. Those are the primary source of funding for the festival. People can also help by buying $30 Supporter Cards which entitle the bearer to discounts at local businesses. And there are “Firecrackers” which can be purchased and displayed on the walls of downtown businesses.

“Irontown thanks all of our sponsors and supporters,” Ducoli said in the story. “Without them we could not make Pioneer Days such a success every year.”

We implore people who enjoy Pioneer Days to become more involved. We don’t want it to be another situation in which people lament a tradition’s passing instead of stepping up to help it continue.

Anyone wishing to become a business sponsor or a supporter, make a donation, buy a Supporter Card or just find out more information about the festivities can visit the Negaunee Irontown Association on Facebook or the website at