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Dueling garlic festivals work things out

The “Summer Fest and Garlic Out West” is the last garlic festival standing in western Washington County.

At a meeting last Thursday, June 27, North Plains Chamber of Commerce officials decided to cancel the “Elephant Garlic Festival,” sponsored by the chamber but set for the third weekend of August this year in Banks, ostensibly bringing an end to the tale of the two battling garlic festivals.

The North Plains Chamber of Commerce has historically sponsored the annual garlic festival, which has been held in North Plains for the last 15 years.

This year, however, North Plains chamber leaders decided to hold the “Elephant Garlic Festival” in Banks during the city’s annual barbecue and truck and tractor pull, Aug. 16-18, in conjunction with the Banks Sunset Park Association.

The North Plains Events Association planned “Summer Fest and Garlic Out West” to be held in North Plains the traditional second weekend of August.

The spark of the sparring festivals came last year at North Plains City Council meetings, when North Plains chamber members discussed passing the garlic torch to a different sponsor.

Although city officials never formally transferred control over to a different entity, they were working under the assumption that chamber officials, including then-president Dennis Brown, were no longer planning on organizing the event. A few months later, chamber leaders changed their minds and wanted to take back control of the event, but the North Plains Events Association had been formed by then — and members of the new group already had plans in the works.

After hours of discussion, the hiring of an intellectual property lawyer and a tug-of-war over the event name and slogan, the city of North Plains granted the necessary permits to the NPEA to hold the event in North Plains.

The chamber had already trademarked the “Elephant Garlic Festival” name, and slogan, “Fun Stinks,” however.

The decision to cancel the “Elephant Garlic Festival” in Banks was “made strictly on finances and lack of volunteers, which is the only logical conclusion in the matter. The risk going forward is too great and cancelling now will save costs,” Russ Sheldon, who was elected North Plains chamber president in May, explained in a press release.

“Looking at the actual revenue earned and received by sponsors, and analyzing a multitude of financial considerations we were just unsure of, we decided it was the best option,” Sheldon said.

Sheldon replaced Brown, who is still a chamber board member, as chamber president.

Wayne Holm, CEO of Oregon-Canadian Forest Products and North Plains’ largest employer, agreed with the decision.

“I was concerned about the chamber’s liability with the event taking place outside our community. After listening to their discussions over the past weeks, the board made the right decision based on the fiscal probabilities,” said Holm, who became involved in the festival discussions two months ago.

Sheldon believes the decision to pass the garlic festival to another sponsor last year was made by the chamber leaders without input from members of the chamber of commerce, which is part of the reason he ran for chamber president — “to lead the chamber in a new direction and put the focus on North Plains businesses and the North Plains community, not in another community.”

He added that these events rely heavily on volunteers, many of which are already participating in the “Summer Fest and Garlic Out West,” and may be reluctant to work garlic festivals two consecutive weekends.

“The cancellation was an amicable one with Sunset Park Association,” Sheldon said.

“I’m sorry it didn’t work out,” said David Duyck, president of the Banks Sunset Park Association. “But with the turmoil going on in North Plains, we feel it may be better the barbecue and garlic festival are separate.

“We loved the idea of something new and different for the barbecue, but for this year we’ll just keep the traditional schedule and each of us will do our own thing.”

Organizers of the Banks barbecue will still welcome food, as well as arts and crafts vendors who signed up to participate in the “Elephant Garlic Festival.”

Live music, food and craft vendors and the beer and wine garden will kick off the North Plains event Friday at noon. Fundraiser runs, pancake breakfasts, a parade down Main and Commercial streets, car shows and live music complete the weekend, where the new slogan says it all: “It’s chic to reek.”

For more information and a complete schedule of events at the 2013 North Plains Summer Fest & Garlic Out West Festival, visit garlicoutwest.org

— Reporter Jim Redden

contributed to this story.




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