Council awards garlic fest contract to events association after two-year conflict
After a tumultous couple of years in which operation of North Plains' signature summer event ping-ponged between the Chamber of Commerce and the North Plains Events Association, the City Council Nov. 17 awarded a five-year contract for running the Elephant Garlic Festival to the NPEA.
Patti Burns, who has organized the festival in North Plains for 11 years, announced Friday that the 2015 event would be held Aug. 7 to 9 at the Jessie Mays Community Park.
Burns, owner of Loch Lolly Christmas Forest, will coordinate the garlic festival with Sherrie Simmons, president of the NPEA and a councilor-elect in North Plains.
She's looking forward to moving beyond the tug-of-war that gave the longstanding festival an identity crisis in 2012 and 2013.
"There were some personality conflicts," Burns said.
In the fall of 2012, the North Plains Chamber was in charge of the festival, which draws thousands to the city every August to sample garlic-infused products, peruse arts and crafts, participate in a fun run and watch a parade.
The way Burns tells it, five members of the old chamber board "came up with some different priorities they were going to give [the festival] to the city to run."
But not long after that, the Chamber wanted the festival back.
A meager moneymaker Burns said it "makes a few thousand dollars" each year the festival wound up in the middle of a bitter battle for the right to name it, run it and use its slogan, "Fun Stinks," and the likeness of its mascot, Stinkee, on promotional materials.
After city officials denied the Chamber a permit to operate the festival in North Plains in 2013, several of the board members "went to Banks and started the Oregon Garlic Festival," Burns said, asking members of the neighboring city's Banks Sunset Park Association for permission to pair it with the Banks BBQ.
"We stopped it," said Burns, who resigned from the Chamber board along with Stewart King during the kerfuffle.
It was a mutual parting of the ways, she added, but not exactly amicable. "They let me go. I resigned and they gave me my walking papers at the same meeting," Burns said.
After Burns left the Chamber board, three North Plains residents Teri Lenahan, Russ Sheldon and David Hatcher started the not-for-profit NPEA. Meanwhile, a revamped Chamber board petitioned the city to transfer ownership of the festival and trademarked its name and namesake, Stinkee.
But actual transfer of control of the event to a specific group never took place. Just weeks before dueling 2013 events were to debut the Oregon Garlic Festival in Banks and Summer Fest & Garlic Out West, run by the NPEA in North Plains the Chamber backed away from the event altogether.
The Summer Fest moniker only lasted one season.
"We went back to the Elephant Garlic Festival" in 2014 after the Chamber membership conveyed the trademarks back to the city. This year's event was a resounding success, Burns noted.
"We had the best year last year we've ever had" in terms of attendance (about 25,000 people), and vendors were running out of food," she said. "It was just unbelievable."
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