Spending of Hillbilly Day's proceeds in question

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT/WKYT) - Questions are being asked about proceeds from Kentucky's second largest festival, Pike County's Hillbilly Days.

Pike County has been celebrating Hillbilly Days since 1977 and over the years the festival has grown significantly. Pike County Judge Executive Wayne T. Rutherford explains, "The county government operated it, it got too big for us, so we turned it over to the chamber."

When founded, the intent was to help children through the Shriner's Hospitals for Children, something county officials feel has been lost. Judge Rutherford explains, "The chamber years ago, sent somebody to Knoxville to sign a contract and took it away from the Shrine Club and ever since I've been trying to get them to give the money back, give the money to the crippled children."

Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce officials say the festival is helping more children than ever before and will be recognized this year by the Shriner's Children's Hospital in Lexington as a large donor. Chamber President Jared Arnett says, "We have grown the donations for the Shriner's Children's Hospital, basically from 2005 we donated $48,000 that year, last year we donated $82,000."

Due to that fact Arnett says the Shriner's organization is satisfied with the management of the festival. "It makes it easier on them, they essentially contract us to manage the festival for them and we have an agreement on how we break down those funds and what expenses we share. We have had no complaints from the Shriners on our agreement," explains Arnett.

County officials believe details about money raised through the festival should be made public. Judge Rutherford says, "I call on them every year to have an audit and put it in the paper."

Arnett says, "As a private organization, contracted with another private organization, between the two of us every penny is accounted for."

Arnett continues to explain the chamber's role, "We manage all the logistics, we manage all the vendor registrations, we bring out 70 volunteers the day of the event. Three staff members work on it nearly year around, and none of our employee time or payroll or our volunteers, we don’t deduct any of that expense from what we donate to Shriners." Chamber officials say all parties of the contract are satisfied with the festival.

This year's Hillbilly Days Festival is set for April 18th - April 20th.

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