OAKLEY -- Just like the trees it was named after, Oakley's Almond Festival is no more.

The popularity of the annual end-of-summer celebration that once was the Oakley Chamber of Commerce's largest fundraiser had waned in recent years, prompting the nonprofit to address residents' questions about this year's plans by announcing that it's canceling the event for the foreseeable future.

The company providing the carnival rides abruptly pulled out in 2011, eliminating the festival's biggest draw and putting the chamber of commerce in an "awkward financial position," President Sallie Goetsch said.

"It was clear that unless we had something like that kind of attraction that people were willing to pay money for, there wasn't any point in spending the money it would take to have an event," she said.

The chamber shelved the festival last year, and Goetsch said the current board of directors has no intention of reviving it.

She only can surmise why attendance has dropped off: The free events the city offers such as Oakley Harvest Festival and holiday observances enable residents on a budget to have fun even during the recession, she said, noting that the Almond Festival charged admission.

Then, too, the problem might be that fundraising has reached a saturation point, she said, noting that local nonprofits hold similar events such as the poker tournament that the chamber had to cancel this year for lack of interest.

People are more apt to attend functions such as school fundraisers that benefit them or their children directly, Goetsch added.


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For the chamber to organize another festival, with or without a carnival, it would need assurances that it could make a significant profit, she said.

For now, however, the chamber's board is focusing on holding events designed to appeal to businesses, including a half-day workshop in October that will cover a variety of how-to presentations on aspects of starting and expanding a small enterprise.

The chamber also will help with a first-time fall event the city is holding downtown.

The one-day Heart of Oakley Festival in mid-September won't have carnival rides, but it will feature food and, at the chamber's booth, wines from locally grown grapes, Goetsch said.

Another chamber-sponsored event also has changed: The Citizen of the Year awards banquet this year will be scaled back to a brief ceremony with speeches, plaque presentations and refreshments at Oakley's city council meeting Tuesday.

The thinking was that most people won't pay to attend a $40-per-plate function, Goetsch said, and yet there are still residents who deserve public recognition for their civic involvement.

"Even if we can't have a big fancy dinner we want to do something," she said.

As with the festival, lack of interest has been a problem, Goetsch said.

The chamber canceled Citizen of the Year altogether in 2012 after receiving a lackluster response despite sending requests for nominations to some 11,000 households.

The chamber received a "painfully small number" of nominations for the award this year despite the advertising it received in the mayor's blog, on the marquee outside City Hall and the chamber's website, through announcements at chamber mixers, tweets and mentions in local newspapers, Goetsch said.

Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.