Plant fair will take root in new location

Popular annual event moves from downtown Camas to Camas High School

After calling downtown Camas its home for more than a decade, the annual Mother’s Day Plant and Garden Fair will be held at a new location.

The new site for the Saturday, May 7, event — organized by the Columbia Gorge Women’s Association — will be the grounds of Camas High School.

According to Joyce Lindsay, vice president of the CGWA, the venue change was made because as representatives from the women’s association began making plans for this year’s 14th annual fair, there appeared to be a possibility that fees could be assessed by the city and prepaid for costs associated with items such as overtime for city personnel and equipment delivery and pickup.

“It’s an awful lot of work to put that event on,” said Lindsay, adding that about $3,800 was raised from the 2010 event that drew 10,000 to 12,000 people and benefits scholarships for disenfranchised homemakers. “We aren’t doing it to pay the city, we are doing it to help women.”

According to city leaders, however, in general organizers are asked to provide reimbursement for use of city resources when it pertains to events aimed solely at making money.

“That’s always been the case,” said Police Chief Mitch Lackey. “If the event was for-profit, the city has always charged for those. But it has not charged for long-standing events put on by non-profit groups that serve the greater community, like Camas Days and the Plant and Garden Fair.”

Once an event organizer submits an application for a special event permit, the final decision is made by City Administrator Lloyd Halverson.

“They want to look at each event individually,” Lackey said. “Each one is so unique. It’s up to the city administrator to decide.”

In the end, CGWA members decided it would be best for the long-term future of the Plant and Garden Fair to chose a new location. The CHS site, which wouldn’t cause significant traffic impacts or create the need for street closures, seemed to be a good fit.

“It seemed like a very logical move to make,” Lindsay said. “All of a sudden it just seemed easy.”

The new location will offer the opportunity for additional involvement with the school community, more space for vendor loading and unloading, and substantial parking and a purchase pickup zone for shoppers. In addition to the traditional plant and garden items, there will also be vendors selling visitors food.

“I think it is going to work out well,” Lindsay said. “This first year is going to be a transition period, but we already have more vendors now than we did at this time last year.”

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Brent Erickson said the Plant and Garden Fair’s move will have an impact.

“It will have an effect,” he said. “When you don’t have the event down here, then other businesses are not benefitting from it.”

Special events, specifically those that require closures of downtown Camas streets, have been a topic of discussion recently. While some local merchants say festivals and other activities help draw customers inside their stores, others maintain they are a hindrance to conducting business.

In an effort to address the issue, last summer a committee led by Lackey took input from business owners, city employees and citizens.

This led to proposed changes in city policy that primarily hinge on a stipulation that allows for two permitted special events per month — one that requires one full street closure and one requiring a partial closure. Long standing community events like Camas Days, Hometown Holidays and the Boo Bash have priority. Events such as First Friday, which rarely requires street closures, and the Farmer’s Market, with a one-block street closure that doesn’t impact businesses, would not be included in the monthly count.

A new special event guide has also been developed that is currently in draft form. The City Council will offer its input and suggestions on the guide at the Tuesday, Feb. 22 workshop. Lackey hopes to have the final document ready for distribution to the public by the end of March.

As for the Plant and Garden Fair, Lindsay said the intention is to make the CHS site the permanent location for the popular local event.

“This year is trial and error, so we will see how it goes. We hope that it will work out,” Lindsay said. “We feel in our heart of hearts that we’ve changed the location for good.”

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