AH Monroe king and queen 2019

This will be the last year that AH Monroe coordinates, and benefits from, the Royal Campaign for King & Queen of Fantasy Fest. Following this year’s coronation in October, the nonprofit will hand the reins to the producers of Fantasy Fest to decide how best to proceed and which local charities might benefit from the annual fundraising effort. 

In the wake of last week’s announcement, Scott Pridgen, executive director of AH Monroe, took to his keyboard to more fully explain the decision and what it means:

“After my announcement, I’ve had questions asked of me. None have been negative; several have indicated hearty approval and offered congratulations at both our agency’s financial health and our willingness to ‘share’ a well-known fundraiser with others. So let’s recap what you might have missed:

“Our board made the decision that this year, 2022, would be the agency’s final Royal Campaign of Fantasy Fest as beneficiary. This is NOT the end of the Royal Campaign as a community fundraiser. It also has nothing to do with the Fantasy Fest celebration. It continues.”

Why did this announcement come out of nowhere? The official news may have been unexpected, but this has been under discussion for two years, when the first wave of COVID quarantines enveloped the country. Our financial projections demonstrated that the agency was asserting self-sustainability. Another worthy organization should reap the many rewards of this fundraiser. We also strongly felt the most transparent exit strategy was to announce this far ahead of the actual campaign or the Coronation festivities, so the community and candidates can savor this “finale.”

Who will hold The Royal Campaign in 2023? We have no idea. Returning it to the Tourist Development Association (TDA), which produces Fantasy Fest, concludes our stewardship. The direction they choose is up to their board.

Does the agency not need donations anymore? Of course we do. We also continue to apply for any relevant grants and remain in close contact with philanthropists like The Sherman Trust. Donations of goods, resources, money and time are always welcome. We are simply eliminating one infrastructure layer of seasonal fundraising. The SMART Ride – an external fundraiser in which this agency participates – will continue. So will Taste of Key West.  Other pop-up fundraisers or attractions to benefit us may occur, and we welcome them. The Royal Campaign of Fantasy Fest was always “on loan” to us.

Why hold this year’s Royal Campaign at all? And just let it fade away? That was non-negotiable. This is about closure. This is about gratitude. We take the Royal legacy very seriously. What this community has given us is beyond measure and we want our rock star candidates and everyone who came before to leave the stage in style, basking in the warm glow of Coronations past. That’s why the theme is “Thanks for the Memories!” 

So anyone keen on becoming the last roster of candidates to benefit AH should toss in their hat. If last year’s line-up comes back into play — and we are hearing that it will — we will have a bumper crop of fascinating, energetic candidates for the public to meet on Friday, Aug. 26 at The Royal Kickoff. Our two information sessions are June 23 and July 28, both Thursdays. Both are casual get-togethers that tell you what being an eight-week AH ambassador can mean. Think of it as the closing ceremony of the Olympics or the final episode of “Friends.”  Our gratitude stretches since 1989 across decades of Royal fundraising – an astonishing $5.1 million raised toward our mission of Health + Housing. Everyone likes a goofy anecdote, to share a good cry and a standing ovation at Truman Waterfront. I know I’m looking forward to that celebration.