Abandoning Tubies, seeking new leadership to take the helm of decades old tradition

Unless someone comes forward to take over the Tubie Festival, South Dundas will lose its longest running annual festival.

The Tubie Festival organizing committee of the Morrisburg and District Lions Club confirmed last week that they can no longer commit to the time and effort that is required to run the 43 year old event.

The Tubie Festival Committee is a 10 member club within a club of younger Morrisburg and District Lions. 

Michael Domanko and Matt McCooeye, co-chair the Tubie Festival Committee.

After eight years of hosting Tubies, the committee is starting to experience volunteer fatigue, and thought now would be the time to step away, leaving the door open for someone new to take it over.

Domanko said the ‘red tape’ involved with organizing such an event can be a frustrating part of the process, but while contributing to fatigue, it is not the main factor in the decision. 

“The municipality has taken steps to try and help with things like festival insurance, but you do spend a significant amount of time dealing with red tape at various levels of administration,” he said.

Domanko believes that Tubie interest is on the rise, compared to what it was about five years ago.

He said the decision was not about money. “When the Lions took over the event it was to support an important community festival. It was never about being a fundraiser for the club.” While some years, the profit was minimal, the event has never lost money for the Lions.

“While the number of crafts have been steady over the years, I think it’s encouraging that we are seeing a number of younger participants,” said Domanko. 

The committee has been working over the years to make Tubies a more family oriented event, bringing in activities for the kids, and encouraging more youth to get involved. 

“I think we’re seeing that pay off,” said Domanko. “Now, a lot of those kids look forward to Tubie weekend too. In my opinion, we’ve crossed a threshold. More people are coming forward an showing an interest.”

“I think it’s better to make a change in organization while things are on an upswing, rather than on the decline,” said Domanko. 

“As lifelong residents of the community, and former Tubie Weekend participants, it was a privilege to be involved with the organization and execution of ‘Tubie Weekend’ for the last eight years,” reads a letter to the community drafted by the committee. 

“Tubies have been part of our community’s fabric for over 40 years, and we took pride in being one of the many and varied groups that has worked to ensure it remains the longest continuous running local festival.” 

“It is our hope another group steps forward and continues the tradition with the enthusiasm the weekend deserves.”

Domanko says he is optimistic about the future of the Tubies. “I think enough people have fond memories of Tubies, that enough of them will get involved to ensure that Tubies continue.” 

“I think they also recognize the weekend as having significance both as a tourist draw and a community event,” he added.

Looking back at the years where he and the Lions CIC have steered the event, Domanko says, “I feel good about that too.”

Although it has been a lot of work, Domanko has always enjoyed his time as organizer, and taken great pride in seeing every aspect come together. 

“People always tell me, ‘I come home every Tubie Weekend, because I know that is when everyone else will be coming home too.’ I think that is one of the greatest attributes of Tubie Weekend,” said Domanko.

Anyone interested in getting involved with keeping the Tubies afloat can contact Domanko by email (mdomanko@gmail.com). The committee is happy to share information and help facilitate a change in leadership.

The Tubie tradition started in 1970, as a fun event where a couple of guys teamed up, built a craft of an inner tube and paddled from Arlor Haven Campground at Mariatown to the Morrisburg Beach. 

The race winners were crowned ‘Kings of the River’. 

The fun of the event caught on. Powder puff and junior classes even drew competitors to the race. 

A Tubie parade has always been part of the Tubie tradition.

Over the decades, certain names dominated the races year after year, – Veley, Cassell, Farlinger, McGee. 

The Lions Club took over Tubie weekend in 2006, from the Flamingos hockey team, and formed the Tubie Festival Committee.

In 2009, they changed the race format. Instead of racing from Mariatown to the Morrisburg beach, they organized a series of elimination round heat races from the Morrisburg dock to the beach, with the winners of the final being named Kings of the River.

In 2010, the dance was moved from the Morrisburg arena to the waterfront under a big tent. 

“Keep in mind, Tubies have seen a number of different incarnations over the years,” said Domanko. “You don’t have to do it the way we did it.”

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