As a preface to Harvest Homecoming’s 2013 invasion, here are the follow-up questions we asked last year (October 16, 2012). At the time, we called it an evolving worksheet, noted that the event remains something capable of being reformed to bring it into line with current realities, and pointed out that unless the discussion actually begins, there can be no solution.
A year has passed. Have any of these questions been answered?
In the coming days, I’ll be reprinting several essays about Harvest Homecoming. As always, thanks for reading.
For city government and the police department: Can there be clear and public clarification of the open container laws, or absence thereof? Those of us who did our level best to comply with ATC regulations governing alcoholic beverages being carried in and out of our licensed space continue to find it disconcerting that there is inconsistent open container enforcement, if any at all. If this state of affairs owes to ambiguities in state law, I’m happy to take the case to higher authorities. If it owes to local indifference, then we have accidents just waiting to happen during Harvest Homecoming.
For the Board of Public Works: You are charged with managing the city’s properties, which customarily include our streets and sidewalks. The traditional Harvest Homecoming festival business model is reliant on being granted permission to charge booths a fee for temporary street set-up space, which has had the consequence of blocking the entrances of businesses that operate year-round – and there are far more of these now than in the past, when the festival’s business model was developed. Harvest Homecoming’s grudging compromise solution in recent years has been to give existing businesses a first chance to purchase booth space for $300, and using the purchased space to function as de facto entry to their front doors. How does the Board of Public Works justify this practice of compelling year-round businesses to pay for entry into their own buildings? Is there a statutory precedent for this practice sufficient to dissuade legal action? Is this something the Board intends to address when it arises, and not before?
For Harvest Homecoming: Is there a credible economic impact study, one conducted since revitalization commenced in earnest downtown, charting the festival’s belief that its presence is a boon for the area in which it is held? Such an impact study must seek to document where the money spent during the festival actually goes, and if there is benefit or detriment to existing businesses, which are forced to alter their modes of operation to suit the needs of the festival. If there is not such a study, how can such positive economic impact claims possibly be verified?
For the city’s elected officials: It should be obvious by now that the economic interests of our 365-days-a-year revitalizing downtown business district clash with the traditional Harvest Homecoming business model, which was devised during a time when downtown was in decline. This clash can only get worse without some form of intervention. While it is clear that numerous people come to the city’s center each year during the festival’s run, it is far from clear whether their presence is a good thing for those existing businesses that have invested heavily in their own business models. Isn’t it the city’s job to help answer the questions I’m asking here? Isn’t it the city’s job to arbitrate and mediate the ongoing conflicts of interest? After all, each year the city approves the festival’s increasingly outdated business model. It needn’t proffer approval without active participation in discussions and exercised aimed at greater festival transparency and a more inclusive approach.