Chesterton Tribune

Oh, What a World . . .

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The Wizard of Oz Festival organizers have come up with a new way to inconvenience downtown Chesterton residents and merchants.

Just when we thought all the problems between the festival and the town were worked out and there was, in fact, no place like home, festival organizers announced plans to rope off downtown Chesterton so that an admission fee can be collected from Oz festival attendees.

The Oz festival problems began with the poorly conceived transition from a Chesterton/Duneland Chamber-run festival to a festival run by an independent board not governed by Chamber membership: Lakeshore Festival & Events Inc (LFE). The transition budget assumed that for 2004 the festival would be a joint effort with a part-time festival staff being helped by the Chamber.

A wrinkle developed when the Town of Chesterton sought to iron out problems with the festival involving costs to town government. That was solved earlier this year with the festival adding a surcharge for booths and passing the new money on to the town. As recently as April 1 representatives of the festival and Chamber said in a public meeting that there were no problems between the festival and Chesterton.

The signing of the final contract with the town for this year appeared to be a formality to be dealt with at the Town Councilís meeting this coming Monday.

Then on Tuesday of this week the flying monkeys were set loose again.

The festival board voted nearly unanimously for the proposed admission fee.

One would think the festival has a committee to find new ways to inconvenience long time residents and business owners.

Picture this: The Oz parade has just concluded. A mass of humanity tens of thousands strong swarms toward the downtown. (Those who have experienced this know it can be a bit frightening.) The crowd hits the snow fences. Lines form. Local residents and patrons of downtown businesses start moving to the front prompting angry exchanges with costumed festival goers trying to find where the lines end.

Flustered volunteers try to keep order and make change.

Suddenly, under the press of the crowd the snow fence collapses.

If this were Oz Glinda would float down in a bubble and gently chastize her errant Munchkins and Winkies back into line, but it is not, and the disorder spreads. Dorothy dresses are torn, witches melt, balloons float free, TV news choppers are heard coming out of the west . . .

Town Council members should ban any admission fee this year that involves fencing off the downtown. Donation barrels maybe, but not a fee.

The Chamber of Commerce board should demand that the festival stick to the original transition budget.

Festival organizers should look to the Valparaiso Popcorn Festival for a template on how to organize a successful festival and keep the festival non-profit corporation running year round.


Posted 4/23/2004