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HDPA petitions against VikingFest carnival

POULSBO — It was time for action last week for Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association member and Wild & Wooly owner Caroline Perisho, who presented Little Norway’s city council with a petition signed by 48 other members of downtown businesses Sept. 5. The petition seeks to oust the annual Viking Fest carnival from Anderson Parkway.

It came on the heels of an Aug. 30 e-mail from Viking Fest president Ron Krell to Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade, which addressed concerns and stated the organization’s hope for compromise downtown, as no other option to house the carnival has been identified.

“Separating the carnival from the rest of the festival, so that families must choose to attend one or the other, is likely to reduce the attendance at both,” Krell said. “The synergism of the carnival, food booths, vendors, Kvelstad Pavilion, Viking Village, Sons of Norway, the road race, Liberty Bay Park, the marina and the parade, all located in close proximity, should not be tampered with.”

Krell said the carnival generates approximately $10,000 to help pay for the festival, which brings in about 40,000 people downtown. A change in the festival’s system could jeopardize its ability to provide scholarships, he said. This year alone, $7,000 was awarded to students in North Kitsap. He also pointed out that many of the parking spaces would be taken up by visitors hoping to experience the festival, parade and other Viking Fest activities even if the carnival weren’t present. Not all spaces would simply be left open for business patrons, he said. Members of the Viking Fest organization have also said they would be willing to distribute flyers for downtown merchants in an attempt to bring more festival-goers to their doors.

“I’m sure that if we circulated a petition to the community at large asking that the carnival be retained, there would be no problem in quickly amassing a far larger list of signatures,” Krell said in response to the entreaty.

Perisho said she could have had more signatures on the document, but felt 49 would be enough of a representation.

“We have made it perfectly clear, all of the business owners, that Viking Fest is an issue,” she said. “This is not a new issue. I know it’s been brought up before. We’re really hoping to make sure it does happen, or at least that we’re not ignored. I don’t think that the town is big enough for a carnival... I think the carnival belongs at the fair.”

The petition specifically called for the removal of the carnival from Anderson Parkway, a large parking lot which is owned by the city but has been paved and improved at downtown business owners’ expense. Perisho said while she supports the work of the Viking Fest board and knows it faces a difficult situation, the downtown business owners have waited long enough for the city to step up.

“I really feel that we have compromised for a long time,” she said. “It really becomes an issue whenever anything happens. When it’s three or four days of probably one of the first nice weekends each year, that’s a substantial loss for businesses.”

Greater Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce executive director Stuart Leidner said this petition should provide the city with the feedback it has been seeking not just in the case of Viking Fest, but in regards to parking issues as a whole.

“This still revolves around the parking issue,” he said. “This has become the focal point. It is something that hopefully the council will take to heart.”

Leinder said he expects the discussion to become a public one as business owners fight for their lot.

“From the chamber’s perspective, we are looking to support our businesses,” he said. “I think we’re finally getting to the point where some decision needs to be made... The businesses have been pretty clear they don’t want to see (Anderson Parkway) shut down because that’s their livelihood.”

When asked what the council plans in response to the petition, councilman Ed Stern said “a lot.” He said the issue will again be visited at a Community Services Committee meeting today at 4 p.m. in the city hall engineering room.

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