Jennifer Koopman: FAQ On The New Oyster Festival Policies

Monday, May 6, 2013


Arcata Main Street Director Jennifer Koopman.

Arcata Main Street Director Jennifer Koopman.

When did you decide to charge?

We as board have talked about it for years, but funding has decreased over the years from other entities. We have been able to spend the proceeds from the festival’s beer sales to pay for all the other FREE events we put on such as Concerts on the Plaza, Picnics on the Plaza, Trick Or Treat On & Around the Plaza as well as the Christmas decorations. Not to mention, all the marketing and collateral we do for our monthly Arts! Arcata event.

The proceeds are also used to pay for office rental space in Jacoby’s Storehouse, office supplies, my salary, the website, tents, permits, insurance and all the other supplies needed to put on such a massive event including security, sanitation & recycling services, etc….

I have 10 FREE scheduled events beginning in mid-July: Picnics & Concerts on the Plaza where I pay the bands, sound technicians, sound equipment rental, etc. These are all FREE to the general public.

Arcata Main Street has a smaller membership than Eureka Main Street does. Plus, Eureka Main Street has two paid employees I believe. They also have a Business Improvement District where they get additional funding. You would think all the businesses on the Plaza would be paying members of Arcata Main Street, but they are not. I would say about 19 out of maybe 39 are members. We have around 17 businesses that are not located directly on the Plaza but in downtown Arcata that are paying members. If you look at last year’s Oyster Festival poster you’ll notice most of the sponsors are not even located in Arcata. Most of them are in kind sponsors or trade or donate to the organization.

Are you blocking off the businesses with fencing?

First off, the proposal is not for fencing to block off the public from the businesses, but to enclose the vendor booths and the inner Plaza square. Nothing is final yet. All the paperwork is ongoing.

I’m employed by and for the Arcata merchants. The whole mission of AMS is to bring and sustain local commerce in the downtown area. If I were to fence off access to the stores, that would be counterproductive to all my goals. The Plaza is a public space and it can be rented from the city. Nothing is final yet. We are still working in concert with the fire department, police and the city. We are currently working on an emergency evacuation plan, fencing map and the logistics of all entry and exit points. All the sidewalks will be open for foot traffic. The fences would go in the streets as they are barricaded off already to cars and traffic. People will still be able to walk on and around the Plaza. We are just enclosing off the food vendors, beer and music.

A lot of merchants may have record setting days in sales on June 15, but they still have to deal with all the mayhem, clean up and vandalism after the event. Restaurants like Abruzzi and Plaza Grill are considering closing on Oyster Festival. So, I not only have an obligation to bring more commerce to the downtown area, but I have to consider everyone’s complaints and try to help them. The Oyster Festival was started to benefit the town, not too hurt it.

Is it all about the money?

Of course I want the event to be profitable and have some reserve, but I also want to lesson the problems and the impact the festival has on the community. I’ve had a lot of families tell me they no longer go to the festival because it’s just too crowded.

I also have to consider the guests who are visiting our town for the first time. Is the Oyster Festival a true festival about oysters or has it become a drunk fest? If a fire breaks out, are too many people in danger because it’s too crowded? $10 may fan out the crowds. We only have the potential to make more money based on the attendance.

If the event gets any bigger, we’d have to move it. What if the Oyster Festival gets moved to another city — then Arcata loses, the city loses and the merchants I serve all lose.

We are definitely concerned about the festival food vendors potentially seeing a drop off. We are working on a contingency plan for them as we speak. We want them to come back and we want them all to be profitable. If citizens are concerned, they should consider donating their time and volunteer to work for a food vendor. Help the local restaurants and/or non-profit organizations such as Eureka High Cheerleading, The Fire Arts Center, Boyscouts of the Northcoast who vend at this event as their annual fundraiser.

Where does all the money go?

With the potential revenue – the jury is still out on that – depending on attendance and once all the bills are paid, I could potentially hire some extra staff. I pretty much receive help from my Board of Directors who all have full time jobs, a couple of interns, some close friends and my family who volunteer their time to help out with this huge event.

The money will also be reinvested into the FREE Picnics & Concerts on the Plaza series I have slated beginning in mid-July. The money will pay the bands and artists, sound, equipment  and marketing collateral. I’ve been lucky, the artists and bands have all been so generous to Main Street over the years. For example, the band Moonalice, that is playing in Napa at Bottlerock, have played the Plaza for free for the last three years. But I still have many costs associated with every event including pay for sound, equipment, permitting fees, insurance, etc. In addition to maintaining the events we already produce, we have also set up a support fund with Humboldt Area Foundation, where a portion of the proceeds will be donated back to local environmental projects surrounding Humboldt’s aquaculture industry. We are exploring starting a new event. The possibilities are endless but we are committed to do reinvesting the majority of the money will be right back into the local community.

Here is a breakdown of the fees associated with the Oyster Festival:

Fee’s that go directly to Main Street are as follows:
$600 single booth space which includes a 10′ x 10′ serving area and a 10′ x 10′ area for preparation
$850 double booth space which includes a 20′ x 20′ serving area and 20′ x 20′ food preparation area
$75 non-refundable cleaning fee
$25 Electricity

Health Department compliant Tent Rental:

Other fee’s that are associated with the event but go to other entities:

One Day City of Arcata Business License: $21 and non-profits are free (Fee is paid to the City of Arcata)
Temporary Food Facility Application and Policy: $63  (Fee is paid to the Health Department)
One Day Liability Insurance (varies from vendor to vendor); (Fee is paid to their insurance provider)

Please note that fees have remained the same for the last couple years.  Since 2010, we increased the fees by $50.

Also, the $75 non-refundable cleaning fee was implemented in 2011 because vendors were not properly disposing of their grey water so Arcata Main Street had to hire additional staff to collect and properly dispose of the water so it didn’t impact our drinking water and the festivals environmental impact.

Like everything in life, this is a learning lesson. This new $10 fee might look bad to some, but it may turn out to be a positive for others. We’ll never know until we try something new.

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19 Responses to “Jennifer Koopman: FAQ On The New Oyster Festival Policies”

  1. I wonder if she will ever decide to respond directly to local businesses who have attempted to bring their concerns to her attention?

  2. I noticed you asked the question about the festival being a true oyster fest or a drunk fest ? I know this may not be popular but have you considered instead of charging a fee simply not selling alcohol beverages at the festival ? That would cut down on one segment of the crowd but still have families & tourists.

  3. This is not an ADA complaint event. Blocking off the Plaza to vehicle traffic makes in impossible for people unable to walk to attend the event. They too, might like oysters. Also Crabs baseball is the #1 moneymaker for the City of Arcata. To have the festival on the same day as a ball game is a fiscal irresponsibility, It aslo make it very difficult for people to get to the ball game.

  4. Peter George Ricchio Jr.

    not all of us grow pot, and can afford to pay $40(for a family of 4). I don't drink beer but we like to get on the plaza and enjoy some oysters. I don't think we will be going!

  5. The OF has been unpleasantly crowded the last couple of years–unless you get your oyster eating out of the way before 11am…But $10 admission is a LOT. Riffing off Linda Shapeero's idea, either not sell alcohol or do like the German's do and pen all the drinkers in one area, with no alcohol allowed outside the pen.

  6. Alan Gibbs

    Charge $10 get you first 3 oysters free…

  7. …and have a separate, oyster-free Beerfest on the Plaza!

  8. In years past I've had to work on Oysterfest (not at the festival) and only got to go for an hour or so either on my lunch break or before or after my shift. I absolutely refuse to pay more than $3.00 for an hour of entertainment, at least for something I need to spend more money at once I'm in the door. I know I'm not alone in that. The drunks do suck and without a doubt removing alcohol on the plaza itself would make it much more enjoyable for everyone (the bars on the plaza might like that too). Also, Plaza Grill and Abruzzi are considering closing during Oyster-fest? I had to re-read that because that seems ludicrous, please do listen to your downtown businesses, because without their support the events future is undeniably murky at best. I could see a $5.00 fee being justifiable, $10.00 for something I've been to for free is ridiculous. The fest may draw tourists, but can't rely solely on them. Overall this seems to be going in the wrong direction.

  9. That's what I was going to suggest. It will still thin the crowds but will take some of the sting out of paying.

  10. they already have that .. it's called the weekend

  11. I particularly like the idea of separation. could we have the drinkers wear gold stars too? I mean, sometimes you cannot tell a drunk from their appearance … a little help in that area would be nice .. and the $10 should easily cover the cost of stickers or tattoos or whatever ..

  12. Precisely the problem. You want a family event, so you charge so much only single people can afford to go … brilliant! Did Ms Jennifer get her business acumen at a college? or more likely in the cold, hard streets of capitalist arcata? Personally, I think she is a fool, but she probably doesn't think too highly of me right about now either.

  13. You know mark, you and I usually agree on these things and I can't argue with your response here, but I would add a more pointed suggestion: Many years ago, the people of Arcata decided to have plaza in the center of town for the enjoyment of all the residents. not just the residents who paid $10 but all residents — yep … even the homeless. Ms Koopman suffers from the same delusion that a lot public employees suffer from: they confuse their job description with a mandate from the public. At least the public employee, is actually acting on behalf of the public whereas Ms Koopman is only acting out of the self-interest of her membership. She made a terrible mistake. She decided that her event was so important to the community that she could unilaterally decide to charge a rather outrageous amount of money to limit the attendance in such a way as to stop the homeless and the riff raff from attending. She can't just say, "no homeless", so she charges $10. Mark my words, Mark, the decrease in attendance will significantly impact sales at each of the businesses on the plaza. There is no way any person in their right mind will go to the plaza on that day unless they are going to OF. Anyone else, wouldn't fight the crowd. Now, I don't know about you, but I am fairly certain that a lot of businesses benefit from the increased foot traffic. If that foot traffic were to take a nose dive, they are going go be impacted negatively. Ms Koopman, with all due respect (and luckily for me, you haven't earned any), you are a foolish person who has a mistake. Rather than own up to it and make a call to the public rescinding your declaration you have doubled-down, went all in, and that is likely going to cost your membership a good sum of money. I surely hope that it does. I know that I am not going and I know that none of my aunts or uncles or cousins are going. They used to go and they used to spend. So, that's probably three or four hundred dollars that Arcata businesses won't make that day. I know, it's not a terribly large amount of money, but when you multiply that by a 10 or 30% drop in attendance, you might want to have reconsidered the decision. Perhaps your board would like to reconsider their decision?

    You know, kids aren't well known for their love of oysters, why would any parent, knowing that, pay $10 or even $1 to get their kid into an event that is only going to cause discomfort? It's one thing to deal with kids when an event is free, it's quite another to pay for your own misery.

    Ms. Koopman, I do hope that you are to able to make enough money off of this event to continue paying the sole employee at Arcata Mainstreet. Consider the impact of decreased revenues on that person .. oh wait ….

  14. Ms. Koopman,

    I have been complaining about this idea of yours for a while now. Not once have you addressed any of the complaints that I have posed. You don't work for me, so I know you have no responsibility to do so, but I think your arrogance is what bothers me most. Additionally, I am no expert in grammar, but your Op-Ed, reads like a poorly written marketing piece that hasn't suffered the benefit of any editing. I am no Strunk and White, but I think you should have spent a little time thinking about how you want people to perceive your ability to effectively communicate to the public. Using the wrong word: lessen versus "lesson" should be a lesson to you. You should really ask a friend to edit your work.

    I think you have misjudged your importance and your event's significance. Yes, it's a very popular event. But most of the reason that it's popular is because of timing and cost. You have removed the benefit of cost and are left with a weekend in May. I hope that it is a beautiful day and that those who attend have a good time, but let's not kid ourselves about the real impact of your decision. If half of the people who attend the event have children and half of those with children decide not to attend because they see no reason to pay admission for kids who won't eat oysters anyway, you have a significant problem on your hands. Surely, you have thought this through and have decided that it is not significant, but your arrogance in this line of thinking is going to likely cost you and your restaurants a great deal of money. I hope that you staked your reputation on the success of this event, I really do. I sincerely hope that you will experience the level of success that you have always brought to the Arcata Mainstreet's goals. I just don't think that you will experience the level of success that this event has always had because you have misjudged the state of the economy in this area. Sure, Arcata has always been insulated to a degree from the ups and downs of employment and economic problems — those college kids are a real boon to the local stores, but those college kids are not the people who make or break this event (many of them have already left for the year).

    Sadly, my family won't be in attendance this year. As far as I know, none of them will be. Our lack of attendance isn't very significant I suppose, but the couple of hundred dollars that we would have spent might impact local businesses when compounded with the many, many other families that just don't see the point in paying for the opportunity to hear complaints from their kids about those oysters…

    You have spent a fair amount of time justifying your decisions. You have failed though, to answer the concerns of the people who have taken the time write about this change in policy. You have not told us how going to this event is going to be worth an additional 40 or 50 dollars. In sales they say to sell the sizzle not the steak. Perhaps, if you had spent more time thinking about the real issue for people who are complaining you would have gotten to the heart of the matter. Instead, you spent your time justifying the economics from your perspective. A little consideration from our perspective would have been a better investment.

  15. the square belongs to humboldt county as a whole. what you do with the fence is criminal, you use control and containment AND cohesive conrtol as a group and entity. IF you do it and you will fall under a RICO ACTION / if you BLOCK entry to anyone you will open a class action RICO action.
    patrick d lancelin / SCNN santa cruz news net.
    anyone want to see tapes now? sapiscnn

  16. Barrett Kelley

    I can not think of any family that can afford to pay $10 per person plus the cost of food and beer. It seems to me that there should be a price for the kids. Why not sell a punch card for beer sales allowing people 2 to 3 beers for a set price. I also have questions about ADA access. Please note US Department of Justice ADA division verses New Orleans Jazz Fest I strongly reccomend you consider the law of the land when it comes to festivals.

  17. […] fee/fencing which has been on our website for weeks – news stories and Main Street’s lengthy FAQ. Maybe they don’t consider the newspaper or the downtown business organization relevant sources […]

  18. You can find the Oyster Lady selling oysters in the shell and barbequing them, same day at the Arcata Farmer's Market, moved over by the Arcata Co-op on I St. (free to get in to the Farmer's Market!)

  19. Oh yeah. Can you set aside five dozen petites for me?


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