Kite Festival…up in air

Rockaway Beach Kite Festival


By Brian Cameron

The Rockaway Beach Kite Festival has recently advertised it will be held on Memorial Day weekend. The catch is, City Council voted in July to prohibit events on the Wayside during the holiday – among two others.
Some may have seen members of the Rockaway Beach community standing with picket signs out in front of City Hall, or possibly read through some vociferous commentary on social media. A group of community members feel their cause to keep the festival going during Memorial Day weekend is just and needs to be addressed by the city council.
One of the main issues, however, is that it already has been.
The issue revolves around the famed and anticipated annual Kite Festival that Rockaway Beach has considered part of its summer tradition for almost 40 years.  More specifically, the kerfuffle involves the Rockaway Beach Chamber of Commerce and the City of Rockaway Beach regarding parking availability on some of the busiest days of the season in the beachside community.
In July of last year the City Council voted on Resolution 16-646 which served to bar any reservation of the Rockaway Beach Wayside for event-purposes on certain holidays throughout the summer season.  Since 2014, the Kite Festival has taken place over Memorial Day weekend which has put it on course to be a showdown among City Hall and the organizers of the event itself – the Rockaway Beach Chamber of Commerce.
Kristine Hayes, Chamber board Vice President and simultaneous member of the Rockaway Beach City Council, has been at the forefront of the debacle since its inception.
“The resolution eliminates the ability for our nonprofit to fund-raise back bone revenue that pays for community events.” said Hayes. “The Chamber board has an answer to any parking dilemma and we look forward to the time that our government will work with us as our Comprehensive Plan demands.”
As a Rockaway Beach City Council member, she said she feels strongly that both the Chamber and City need to work hand-in-hand to tackle this situation.
“I believe we should listen to the citizens and reverse the resolution,” said Hayes. “The resolution only limits one group (the Chamber) that currently uses the venue and effectively eliminates a 40-year-old festival. My hope is that other council members feel the same.”
The view of
local government
To many, however, the issue isn’t that simple.
Some have accused the Chamber of causing this situation by simply ignoring the will of City Hall and advertising the event on Memorial Day, despite the rulings of the Council in July 2016.  Posters have been distributed that clearly depict the event-taking place on Memorial Day. However, a location on the actual poster is not listed, though implied through the website printed on it.
The original City Council meeting to officially close the Rockaway Beach Wayside on those specific holidays in the summer was also not the result of wanton government decision-making.
With the inception of the Transient Lodging Tax dollars coming into Tillamook County, the decision has been to focus on getting visitors here more often and not simply on days that already act as a draw for out of town tourists. This was the guiding principal that led to the decision to change the rules in the first place in regards to closing the Wayside for events.
“I want to be clear in that we do want the festival to happen, and the Wayside area is available outside of Memorial Day itself,” said Rockaway Beach City Manager Lars Gare. “But we also had the original vote by the Council advertised in six separate locations in both June and July of last year, and it was open for the public to comment and attend.”
According to Gare, that meeting was not attended by anyone voicing dissent to the decision.
The Rockaway Beach Wayside was redeveloped rece ntly to better accommodate beachgoers who wanted a centralized location to park and access the beach and nearby businesses. The grant that was utilized to do the reconstruction was facilitated by City Hall and at the same time the infrastructure to support special events was built into it with special attention paid to electrical and water support for potential vendors who may need those services to operate.
“It’s frustrating to know that despite the Council’s vote to change the usage of the Wayside that there is still an effort to ignore that and go ahead with the Kite Festival anyway,” said Rockaway Beach Mayor Joanne Aagaard. “The Council has it on their agenda for discussion coming up at the next meeting but it’s hard to say how exactly they will handle the issue.”
Many are wondering if the best option would be to waive the restriction for this year due to the fact that a number of vendors and kite enthusiasts have already made lodging reservations and the event has already been conducted on Memorial Day in the past three years.  Though as the mayor indicated it is impossible to know how the Council will approach the situation.

A business perspective
Local business owners seem to be on two different fences about the Kite Festival and its fate this year.
There are some who are fervently pro in regards to having the kite festival on the same day it has been for the last three years. Others, however, share the city’s view in that no matter what, Memorial Day weekend is always a draw for visiting beachgoers.
“I think moving the festival outside of Memorial Day weekend will certainly have a negative impact,” said Victor Troxel of Troxel’s Gems and Jewelry. “The city made an assumption about tourism but if you look around you can see there’s not a lot to do here.”
Some business owners are seeing both sides of the situation and feel a reasoned approach would be the best solution for this particular year.
“Memorial Day weekend is a good time to have it,” said Steve Press of Trash and Treasures. “It’s sort of become a hallmark event for Rockaway Beach on Memorial Day and I think it represents a broader chance at impressing folks as they drive from Astoria to Lincoln City on the first real weekend of the summer season.”
Though Press did mention the event does have a slight negative effect on area merchants, but he added the loss is worth it in the long run as it brings more people to Rockaway Beach when they see a popular event happening as they drive by.
“We do maybe 10 percent less in overall sales when the Kite Festival is here,” said Press. “But hotels, restaurants and bars tend to do much better. It’s mainly because folks don’t tend to shop much at local retailers when vendor booths are set up at the Wayside.”
The next City Council meeting in Rockaway Beach will be held at 6 p.m. on March 8 at Rockaway Beach City Hall.