Jennifer Koopman: FAQ On The New Oyster Festival Policies
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
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.