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Viking Fest carnival finds new home on King Olaf lot

POULSBO —The Viking Fest carnival has found a new home.

For 2008, at least.

Concluding a discussion that began last summer, Poulsbo’s Community Services Committee decided Wednesday afternoon to go back to square one. It will recommend to the Poulsbo City Council the Viking Fest carnival’s relocation to the King Olaf parking lot, an option discussed months ago before other ideas began to surface.

After various Olhava locations and the most recent proposal of a Seventh Avenue relocation failed to pan out, the Viking Fest organization said a move to King Olaf, though not as desired as staying on Anderson Parkway, is something they’re willing to try.

“Our first choice would have been to leave it,” said Viking Fest president Ron Krell. “This is a close second.”

Last week, the organization proposed moving the entire event to the north end of the Poulsbo Village. The move would have shut down part of Seventh Avenue, something several Poulsbo Village merchants were against. After the site was reevaluated, it was deemed too uneven for the carnival, Krell said.

The King Olaf parking lot, too, is uneven, but he said the problem is a solvable one, in part by removing the 23 parking stops installed in the lot, a task that isn’t easy, but can be done.

“It’s not that big a deal to pull those things if you’ve got the right equipment,” he said. And while he said he’d like the city to foot the bill for their removal and replacement, “obviously if the city doesn’t pick it up we will.”

Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade said she spoke with the Public Works department, and a cost had yet to be determined, but she believes some kind of partnership between Viking Fest and the city can be worked out. Using hotel/motel tax funds is one possible option, she said.

While Wednesday afternoon’s discussion was quick and productive, the King Olaf solution is still a compromise, admitted Councilman Ed Stern. He stipulated the relocation be evaluated after the May event. Depending on how things go, an entirely new situation could be found for 2009.

More than 30 attended the meeting, many of whom were Poulsbo Village merchants prepared to fight a relocation of the carnival to their area.

Lori Hoover, owner of Le Soleil Tanning and Spa in the Poulsbo Village, presented the committee with a petition signed by 40, all against the Seventh Avenue relocation.

The move is one not quite as acquiescing to the requests of downtown business owners, though it will allow much of Anderson Parkway to be open for parking during the three-day event. Vendor booths will remain on the lot north of the Kvelstad Pavilion.

Tammy Mattson, president of the Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association and owner of two Front Street businesses, said she hoped Seventh Avenue would be considered, as it offers more parking opportunities and exposure from the busy State Route 305. The move would have also protected the heritage charm for which downtown is known.

“Criminally, it kills the small face of our downtown core,” she said.

The HDPA isn’t out to destroy Viking Fest, and in fact wants to improve it, but the burden is increasingly accumulating on downtown business owners, she added.

“Someone, economically, will have to pay the bill for throwing the party,” she said. “Can we spread the debt a little? ... The business owners’ backs are breaking.”

Sergeant Howard Leeming of the Poulsbo Police Department said he didn’t see any increased safety hazards with having part of Anderson Parkway open to cars while some is closed off for booths. The three-hour parking rule will most likely be out the window for the weekend, however.

“There’s no way we could enforce that,” he said.

Sherry McKay of Paradise Amusements, the carnival company, said the King Olaf location is a compromise for her as well, as it still separates, though not by far, the carnival from the booth vendors. Martha & Mary representatives have OK’d the use of the lot for the 2008 trial run, and McKay said generators will be placed in a way that most decreases noise pollution.

“It definitely is going to take away from the ambience of the whole festival,” she said, adding of the .2-mile uphill climb from Anderson Parkway to King Olaf, “People really don’t like to go up to an event.”

Viking Fest, heading into its 40th year, attracts an estimated 40,000 visitors. The recommendation will be made to the full city council during the Feb. 6 city council meeting. For more information on the event, visit vikingfest.org.

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