New policy puts limits on vendors

May 11, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

Outside vendors with large menus need not apply.

The C&O Canal Days governing board set a new ground rule this year that bars out-of-town food vendors from selling at the annual Williamsport festival - unless they limit their menus.

Elissa Slayman, the festival's chairwoman, said the number of food vendors increased last year from 10 to about 14, causing more competition and less profit for each group.

To protect the Williamsport-based vendors, the festival board voted this year to turn away outside groups - unless they sell one unique item and nothing more.


As it cut the number of food vendors to 10, the board saved a spot for the Williamsport Volunteer Ambulance Service, which plans to sell food for the first time.

"We need ambulance service and we don't want to get them rattled," Slayman said.

The new policy apparently shuts out three organizations this year.

One is the Hagerstown-based Alsatia Club, which raises money largely to help pay for its annual Mummers' Parade at Halloween time.

The club sold hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, soup, soft drinks and more at C&O Canal Days the last two years.

"We was top dog ...," Paul Kramer, the group's vice president for ways, means and finances, joked. "There's one thing we do good and that's cook."

As Alsatia Club president and Williamsport councilman, James McCleaf II is caught in the middle, but he declined to comment.

"I love 'em both," he said of his dual roles. "The parade is so important to me. ... The whole reason I joined the Alsatia Club is the parade."

Not unique

The C&O Canal Days board's attempt at hometown protectionism isn't unique.

Organizers of other local festivals say their main priority is to avoid duplicating types of food. However, if all other factors are equal, they choose vendors with community roots before they choose out-of-towners.

At past Hancock Canal Apple Days, some of the 20 food vendors have come from places such as Somerset, Pa., and Charlotte, N.C., but most are from Hagerstown, Williamsport and Berkeley Springs, W.Va., festival chairman Fran Shives said.

Hancock's fire company and rescue squad have automatic slots, he said.

The same is true for the churches along Sharpsburg's Main Street during the annual Heritage Festival, community relations chairwoman Skip Lushbaugh said.

Last year, five vendors applied to sell kettle corn. The festival stuck with a vendor from Pennsylvania who sells every year and keeps his area clean, Lushbaugh said.

Out-of-town vendors sell kettle corn, crab cakes and Thai food. But when it comes to ice cream, Nutter's, the hometown shop, is the only vendor allowed, Lushbaugh said.

"We would prefer local," she said.

There is not much turnover at the Berkeley Springs Apple Butter Festival, said Laura Smith of Travel Berkeley Springs, a bureau that promotes local events. That makes it easier to maintain quality and variety among vendors, she said.

The city of Hagerstown looks at space, food selection and past problems when choosing vendors, spokeswoman Karen Giffin said.

The Western Maryland Blues Fest's food committee picked 12 food vendors for the upcoming event.

"If we have too many people, they would not make money," Giffin said.

When the choice for the last booth came down to two applicants, she said, the committee chose the Hagerstown vendor - Jason Darr, who will sell Hawaiian shaved ice.

Kramer said the Alsatia Club was told it could still set up at C&O Canal Days if it sharply streamlines its menu.

"It's a shame," he said.

Prime spot

Two years ago, the Alsatia Club was granted permission to set up its food booth at pavilion 1, a prime spot traditionally set aside for the Williamsport Blue Band, Kramer said.

He said the Canal Days board asked the Alsatia Club last year to use pavilion 3, on a hill, so the Blue Band could return to pavilion 1. The idea was that the Alsatia Club and the Blue Band would rotate each year.

Instead of getting a shot at pavilion 1 again this year - or even pavilion 3 - the Alsatia Club was told it couldn't come back with its regular menu.

Kramer said his club doesn't want to take the Blue Band's spot and hurt its sales, but he wondered why the Alsatia Club couldn't set up elsewhere. The club's board will discuss its next move when it meets Wednesday, he said.

A C&O Canal Days food or craft vendor must apply by May 1 to be listed in the program, Slayman said. Late entries may be accepted, but won't be mentioned in the program.

Food vendors must pay $300 to set up if they have a full menu and $100 if they have a single item.

Slayman said the Alsatia Club apparently doesn't want to be on the hill and hasn't applied to be a vendor this year.

Besides the Alsatia Club, two other food vendors came from outside Williamsport last year, Slayman said.

One was from Alexandria, Va. The other was from Frederick, Md. Slayman said the Frederick vendor is a nice man who has never complained. She hasn't heard from him this year.

"I just want everybody to work together," she said. "I didn't think it would cause that much of a stink."

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