A new tax-exempt organization has been created to organize and manage Viva! Vienna!, the town's annual community festival. The organization will be the sole sponsor of the event, replacing the Greater Vienna Chamber of Commerce.

At last week's Town Council meeting, chamber President Julian Johnson presented a $500 check to the new organization. The chamber relinquished its sponsorship of the festival, which has expanded greatly in recent years, because of the strain on its resources and manpower.

"The Chamber of Commerce has continued interest and support of Viva! Vienna!," Johnson said. "We are delighted to turn over the reins to such a capable group."

A seven-member, volunteer board of directors will be responsible for planning and managing the event.

"We will be using the resources of various organizations and service groups, spreading the workload over a larger group of people," said board chairman William Gratz.

In 1984, the first year of the festival, Viva! Vienna! attracted 8,000 to 10,000 people. Six years later, the celebration was attended by more than 30,000 people from the metropolitan area.

"It's very exciting to see this event grow like it has," said Town Council member Robert Dix, a member of the board of directors. "I think it's recognized now as an institution."

Council member George Lovelace voiced concern that the event has outgrown its present site on Church Street.

But Dix said that town residents have expressed their support for the festival's continuation. "I have not heard one person remark in a negative way," Dix said. "Moreover, I've had residents ask me about {the festival's} future."

Gratz acknowledged that Viva! Vienna! has expanded beyond the six blocks of the historic Church Street corridor into area side streets. "It has become so crowded that we're looking at ways to enlarge the space and ease crowd control," Gratz said.

Alternative sites also are being investigated, but Viva! Vienna! will remain at its present location for the foreseeable future, Gratz said.

The festival is the brain child of Dix, who "saw a need for a community gathering for neighbors, relatives and friends to meet together in a festive environment with no alcohol and free of charge."

The celebration, held each year on the Sunday before Memorial Day, opens with a patriotic ceremony. Carnival rides entertain children and there are live performances throughout the day for all ages.

This year's Viva! Vienna! had more than 300 booths from area vendors, craftspeople and service groups. Proceeds from booth rentals are donated to town charities. The town provides cleanup and security for the event.

"The continued sucess of Viva! Vienna! is dependent on the support of the town," said Dix. "It's a partnership and we like it that way."