Port Washington Pirate Festival has hit rocky waters as the event organizer and city officials clashed on Tuesday night about the event's structure and reputation.
City Administrator Mark Grams and Mayor Tom Mlada seemed ready to watch event organizer Kim McCulloch walk the plank, saying McCulloch has not complied with a number of city requests and deadlines meant to coordinate efforts between her and the city as well as avoid problems from past years.
On top of that, the festival also has outstanding bills owed to vendors, and the city is upset by the number of calls its received from those parties hoping to be paid; many people don't understand the city isn't actually in charge of the event.
"I've received personally angry e-mails from vendors," Mlada said. "Unless people know Kim personally they don't associate this event — good or bad — with Kim, they associate it with Port Washington."
McCulloch said she's personally funded much of the festival, and medical bills from two separate situations this year have made her unable to pay those vendors thus far; she's working on taking care of it.
Past festival problems also debated
City officials were also frustrated by the June 2012 festival, during which security issues arised, garbage was not cleared by Monday (the festival ends Sunday) and the council dealt with last-minute approvals needed for live animals at the festival. They met with McCulloch in July, hoping to get off to a better start.
"I'm kind of throwing up my hands … we've asked for certain things. We just haven't received them," Grams said. Recently, Grams and Mlada had met with McCulloch to again discuss the festival, during which city officials said they requested the names and contact information for others involved in the process so that they could all be on the same page; they said McCulloch did not provide this information by the date they requested.
McCulloch refuted much of what officials said during Tuesday night's meeting, adding that she's not willing to give all her business plans to someone who she claims threatened her several times — refering to Grams' alleged attempts to have someone else run the festival.
"We do really try, and you have to understand that there's many people who didn't see how the sausage was made. And it was a wonderful event," McCulloch said. She also pointed to the festival's growing success since its first year —begining with an attendance of about 3,000 and one tent to a larger festival with a 30,000 attendance in 2012.
McCulloch told the Ozaukee Press after the meeting that she would speak to the event's committee — but at this point she did not feel she was willing to move forward with the event.
City officials suggested the idea of looking for someone else to coordinate the event, but McCulloch said she owns the rights to the business.
The Port Washington Pirate Festival Facebook page is already promoting this year's June 7-9 dates, seeking volunteers, entertainers and re-enactors. Much of this information was posted on Tuesday or sooner.