POULSBO — A fiery debate that began last month continued to heat up Wednesday afternoon as downtown business owners pleaded with the city to make a move on the downtown parking issue. Merchants called on the Poulsbo Community Services Committee to alleviate the lack of parking and free Anderson Parkway of the noisy Viking Fest carnival.
Viking Fest representatives shot back with the announcement the organization’s board has begun to take steps to find the festival a new home.
The special community meeting was held at the Sons of Norway lodge to accommodate its nearly 20 attendees. This was the second session centered around Viking Fest and downtown parking, issues which battled for the spotlight throughout discussion. The first meeting was held July 11.
“We’re looking at other venues,” Viking Fest executive vice president Kathi Foresee said. “We are looking to move the whole venue, carnival, parade and vendors.”
Many at the meeting suggested moving the commercially-driven carnival off Anderson Parkway while keeping the Norwegian heritage parade and festivities in the downtown core, but Foresee said the small amount of volunteers putting Viking Fest together could not man two separate operations.
“We feel it’s a whole package thing,” she said. “Our committee is not big enough to split us up… we’re looking, we’re negotiating, we’re working on it.”
Viking Fest president Ron Krell said the event — which will mark its 40th anniversary in 2008 — brings 40,000 potential customers to downtown merchants, and its relocation will not alter what is already a difficult parking situation.
Several business owners voiced their opinions on the festival’s downtown presence and its effects, directing their comments at the committee, asking for a recommendation on the issue to finally be made.
“The thing that I heard from everybody… is that for years and years and years they feel they have been let down,” said Tizley’s Europub and Europa Deli owner Tammy Mattson. “It’s not only parking. We really are trying to preserve the experience in our little Norman Rockwell town.”
Mattson pointed out while the committee held the meeting to better understand what merchants wanted, a consensus against using up parking for events has already been made quite clear.
“If there really was a split in the business members, you would’ve been hearing it,” she said.
Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce executive director Stuart Leidner argued that because downtown business owners paid for improvements on city-owned Anderson Parkway, the decision of its use should partially be made by them.
“It is their lifeblood,” he said. “That decision should really be a partnership… it comes down to managing a piece of real estate.”
Committee members further discussed the community meeting during Wednesday night’s city council gathering, where Councilman Ed Stern summarized the debate.
“It boils down to a parking issue,” he said. “The driver is the absolute essential nature of the parking downtown.”
Councilwoman Kim Crowder said agreed.
“What I heard loud and clear was parking,” she said.
The Poulsbo Community Services committee has yet to make recommendations on either Viking Fest or parking. Krell and Foresee will continue to bring the issue of moving the carnival to the Viking Fest board. Though they were not optimistic, they did indicate they would attempt to pursue avenues to keep the parade downtown while moving the carnival.