The Official 2005 Saugus Calendars are already just about gone in all the distribution centers (although I'm told the Saugus Public Library, RESCO, and some of the other distribution centers still have some).
I've been working with these calendars now for four years, and on the whole it's a fun project. An amazing number of people look forward to each new year's release (in fact a surprising number have collections going back into the mid '90s), and it's always satisfying to work on something that's well received.
I figured I'd take this opportunity to mention a few pieces of trivia that I know about the calendar as I run down its recent history:
The calendar project was originally run by the Saugus Town Government. It was originally hoped that through advertising it would generate a little extra money for various Town programs, but it tended (at best) to just about break even each year, and expenses were going up rather than down. Even though it was a Town-run project, some of the work on it was done outside Saugus (although the printing was done locally in Park Press.
About 5,000 copies were printed each year and were distributed pretty much just through the Town Hall.
At some point the entire production (excepting photograph selection and caption writing) was moved out-of-town. The expenses went up still further.
In 1999 the Saugus Town Manager worked to both reduce expenses and increase advertising revenue. The calendar was decreased slightly in size and an aggressive advertising campaign resulted in small advertisements being placed within each individual day's space rather than the traditional margins. This calendar was the only calendar in the history of the Saugus calendars to be poorly received. In fact, it was pretty much universally hated.
The 1999 calendar was such a disaster the Town decided to find a
suckerbenevolent organization to continue the tradition into future years. After some meetings, the Saugus Historical Society agreed to take it over, hoping that it would generate a little extra money for various Society programs.
The Society didn't really have any calendar-creation experience, so they relied on much of the organizational framework that the Town had established (although they returned to the pre-1999 calendar design) and help from a Wakefield marketing company that someone in the Society knew. The company convinced the Society that it would be a good idea to request a dollar donation per calendar and that the calendar would be a good fundraiser for the Society.
More distribution centers were added, and the dollar per calendar was not always collected. Plus, the advertising revenue was not anywhere near as high as was expected. The Society lost literally thousands of dollars in 2000; the only ones who benefited were the various out-of-town companies that had done the layout, printing, and marketing.
2001 was a repeat of 2000.
The calendar had lost so much money the Society's Board of Directors was on the verge of killing it. Society President Darren J. Brown took it on as a personal project, and he and a small team (of which yours truly was a humble part) worked to slash expenses. The Board mandated that the next year the calendar lost money would be its last -- three strikes and it would be out.
In light of this the calendar committee made the bold decision to not request a donation for 2002's calendar; it was to be completely free again.
The printing was moved back to Park Press. The image processing, layout, and computer work was brought to Saugus.net. 2002 became the first year in the entire history of the calendar that it was created completely in Saugus. The expenses were cut by more than two-thirds, and even though the calendar was free again, it managed to not just break even, but come out slightly ahead. It was released to the public on the Hammersmith Stroll. The number of distribution centers was further increased.
2003 was similar to 2002 in all respects, although the worsening economy saw a slight drop in advertising; the calendar was still able to stay ahead, but just barely.
2004 saw a drop in advertiser backing. With no economic recovery in sight, some of the larger advertisers had reduced their sponsorship or pulled out completely. A last-minute door-to-door fundraising effort by George W. Brown and Harry Surabian managed to save the calendar. It wasn't out in time for the Stroll, but it did manage to get released and break even.
2005 was even tougher than 2004. Society President Darren was in the midst of buying a house and moving during the calendar's normal planning stages, and it put some restrictions on his time. The economy hadn't improved and sponsors were still in short supply. In spite of a prior injury in which he'd almost lost a finger, George Brown again went out door-to-door hunting out sponsors. He managed to pretty much single-handedly (and I mean this more literally than it's normally taken) raise enough money to again see that the calendar broke even.
There are a few other points to mention about the calendar. The first is that the selection of photographs, the writing of captions, the deliveries to all the distribution centers, the sponsor-hunting, etc. is all done by volunteers and has been being done strictly by volunteers since 2002. If you'd like to help out with calendar deliveries or (especially) getting sponsors, please contact the Society as these two jobs in particular are always undermanned.
Secondly, these calendars are now quite a collectors' item for people who collect Saugus memorabilia. They're probably second only to Saugus post cards. As has been observed on Saugus.net, past years' calendars even show up on eBay from time to time. There's apparently even at least one active Saugus calendar auction there right now as I write this. The years 1999, 2000, and 2002 are especially collectable (even though they're not that old) due in part to the circumstances described above.
Thirdly, the idea of these calendars has spread. Today you'll find nearly identical productions in several other towns. They say
imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and in this case it's another example of the popularity of these calendars.
Does anyone have any comments or questions about these calendars? Does anyone have a complete or nearly complete collection? Does anyone have anything more to add regarding the history of the Saugus calendars? Please feel free to comment below.