Economic development director Ken Black told board members that the 2013 Blueberry Festival was the most successful one yet, and he recommended that the board approve the $10,000 in funding requested by the organizers. “This year, they’re looking to increase the number of bands in the parade, have some fire trucks from around the region, and I see no reason not to continue to support this.”
Black said there is only $4,600 in event funding left in the budget for the current fiscal year, ending June 30, but he suggested diverting funds from another line item in the economic development budget. “There’s a $50,000 line item for telecommunications that we’re definitely not going to be using,” he said. “We should fund the rest (of the Blueberry Festival request) out of that.”
Board member Vicki Capitani asked if the event, and the funding requests, would continue to grow. “Last year we supported $8,000, up from $6,000, and now it’s at $10,000. Are we going to be looking at $50,000 in a few years? It’s a nice parade and I like it, but I need to know this isn’t going to be constantly going up every year. That’s a lot of money for a parade.”
Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Adam Grinold said the event was gaining popularity as word spreads about it. “Last year was the most successful event in large part because of the funding given by Dover and the opportunity to partner with the fire department. The concept is that we’re going to greatly expand this with more emergency services folks, getting them to participate from around the state and region. The (original) $6,000 covered the expense of (parade) bands and very little marketing. Now that this is an established event, a top-10 event in the state, it warrants more marketing.”
West Dover Fire Chief Rich Werner said his department and the East Dover Fire Department planned to invite fire and rescue departments from around the Northeast to participate in the event. “We thought maybe we could have the largest fire truck parade on the East Coast,” he said.
Janet Boyd said festival organizers hoped to continue growing the festival events in Dover, as a way of returning the investment the town has made. “We’re conscious of the fact that the more business we can build in Dover, the more the 1% local option tax will come in. The parade won’t support itself, but we’re looking to make this valley be seen as a hotspot for 10 days, including two big events in Dover.”
Boyd said all of Dover’s economic development work is starting to have an effect that is being noticed by visitors. “Last year people said they noticed they could use their cell phones and computers more easily,” she said. “And that’s why they could stay the week. In some of the comments we collected, people were complimentary of the flower barrels, the signs, everything. It may seem fragmented, but people tie the pieces together.”
“That’s why infrastructure is so important for economic development,” said selectboard chair Randy Terk. “We have to fund events, but there have to be things here for people when they get here.”
Local business owner Mark Wallace encouraged the board to support the festival. “If there’s anything we can do to bring people into the valley at that time of year, we need to do it,” he said. “If we need to spend $10,000, do it. To me, that’s short money to bring people here.”
Board members unanimously approved the funding.
Organizers of the Vermont Fiddlehead Festival were told to refine their figures and return with their funding request at the next meeting. They asked for $12,500 in funding, but Black said he could only recommend funding of $9,500. Under the department’s event funding guidelines, the maximum funding is equal to 50% of projected expenses. When organizers said they didn’t include some expenses for events outside of Dover, Capitani urged them to come back with revised figures. “Ken is suggesting $9,500 because of the 50% stipulation,” she said. “If you had all of the expenses in there, maybe we could support it with more.”
“We’ll be back in two weeks,” said organizer Jim DesRochers.
The Vermont Fiddlehead Festival is scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, May 23 – 25. As the name implies, the festival focuses on the edible shoots of certain ferns, but it will also include other “fiddle-related” activities. Events include a fiddle contest and barbecue cook-off in Dover Park and a craft fair at Dover Forge on Saturday, May 24. On Sunday, May 25, the festivities will move to Wilmington for an evening block party and chili cook-off. Organizers say the food events will emphasize “farm-to-plate.”
Grinold said organizers have been lobbying the Legislature to name the fiddlehead the Vermont state vegetable. “But one of the things we’ve found out is that it’s a plant, not a vegetable, so it’s an uphill push. And there may be a battle between kale advocates and fiddleheads. But we’re looking at opportunities for good publicity.”
Grinold said there were already sponsors lining up to be part of the event. “We’re hoping to work with a pizza company for a sponsorship,” Grinold said. “They have a fiddlehead pizza. They reached out to us, found us through our website.” The website is at www.vermontfiddleheadfestival.com.
Grinold said the festival would charge a gate fee of $4 per person or $10 for a family to keep it affordable and accessible. Board members expressed concern about charging people to enter the public Dover Town Park, but Grinold said there wouldn’t be any entry fee or ticket needed to be in the park. “The park would be free, you would walk right up and listen to the fiddlers for free.”
Local business owner Adam Levine asked where the designated parking would be, and if it would impact nearby businesses. “My parking lot is always open,” said Rich Caplan, who owns the former Andirons property next door to the park. “Mine, too,” said Matterhorn Inn owner Joe Kruszewski. “So is ours,” said Wallace, who owns First Trax. “If parking is our problem, then amen.”
Grinold said organizers would work with property owners and police if there are parking concerns. “If we need to, we can put out signs.”
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Dover resident Suzanne Waller asked why the Valley Trail hadn’t been kept open this winter. “We were told that something would be done to make it walkable,” she said. “I see a lot of the internationals walking down the road, wearing dark clothes, and it would be sensible if they could walk on the path. I loved that path when I was able to walk it in the summer and autumn.”
Terk said that the board had decided last fall, after conferring with road commissioner Bob Holland, that it would be impractical to maintain it for walking during the winter. “The decision was to maintain it for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Bob Holland didn’t think it would be possible to get it down to pavement and keep it clear, so we’re grooming it for other types of activities.”
“We were told it was for people to walk to various businesses, restaurants, and bars,” Waller protested.
Philip Waller asked the board to look into what maintenance has been carried out on the trail. “It hasn’t been cross-country skiable or snowshoeable,” he said.
“We’ve got equipment to roll it and pack it, but I don’t think we’ve had the weather to do it yet,” said board member Joe Mahon.