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City Officials Hope Problems at Pirate Fest Will Pave Way for Better Planning

Common Council expresses concerns over annual fest after city crews spent Monday morning cleaning up garbage and vendors reported problems with security and electricity — or lack thereof.

While Port Washington officials called a "successful" event for the city, not all was well with the weekend and council members hope for a discussion with the event organizers before approving the festival for 2013.

"We did incur a few ... problems," City Administrator Mark Grams said during Wednesday night's Common Council meeting. "One is, garbage. If you were downtown on early Monday morning you could see that there was literally garbage from parking lot to parking lot and street to street. … we ended up calling out the city crew, they had to go in there first thing in the morning …. It was not a pretty sight."

Grams said festival vendors also reported issues with security and electricity — the issue being a lack of both accomodations.

"(Festival organizers) indicated there was going to be a security firm down there watching … well we found out that weekend that there was no one hired, and vendors were told their security was to sleep in their tent at night," he said.

Electricty was also not available early Friday — the festival starts Friday afternoon — causing issues for food vendors needing to keep their products temperature contolled. Later Friday, an electrical contractor did show up, but, Grams said, "We've got to deal with (these issues) here before they approve anything next year."

These issues come after the Port Washington Common Council

In 2011, event organizers submitted a last-minute request for the festival to include live reptiles — something that ordinarily would violate an ordinance that bans live animals from all city festivals. Because it was last minute, it was not approved, and the live animal exhibit sat empty. 

This year, the city again received the same last-minute request — but opted to allow the live reptile exhibit pending final approval by City Attorney Eric Eberhardt and Grams upon receipt of proper insurance and certification from the company.

The council approved the last-minute reptile request with two dissenting votes.

"I am a little upset because I was one of the ones trying to push this through last minute because they were late getting their approvals," Ald. David Larson said, "and I’m regretting that I did that. Next year, if they come last minute – I will not support them. … The vendors look at that as Port Washington … they don’t look at it as (the event organizer) … and we don’t want them avoiding us because they don’t (provide) the resources to be successful."

Ald. Doug Biggs agreed, saying he hopes for better planning or the festival will lose his support.

"Next year, as this comes along, (I don't want to) see this as a last minute issue and (want to) make sure this is planned properly.”

Mayor Tom Mlada said he visited the event one afternoon and was "amazed by the volume of people," in the the downtown area for the festival — and how great that is for local businesses. That being said, he agreed the festival issues needed to be addressed.

"I think the key is for us to not only do this, but frankly, to do this well," Mlada said. "I really commend Kim (the event's organizer) — I would say in my other life (in my experience with marketing) I could not fathom coordinating an event of this magnitude without a team of people. I think (this will be better) with some additional partnership … maybe opening the door to some thoughtful planning."

What did you think about Pirate Festival this year? Tell us in the comments.

John June 08, 2012 at 08:43 AM
Who is (the event organizer) I think this is something we should be aware of.
Lauren Petrovic June 08, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Why wasn't Portico open?
Dawn Wood November 18, 2012 at 08:05 PM
I have been coming to the Pirate Festival for 5 years now as entertainment and as a vendor. I have to say that it is my favorite event. So much so I was married on the north beach this year during the festival. Kim does a great job for such a large event. As far as the late additions, I know that many of the groups and vendors that come may not be able to commit until the last minute. We for example come all the way from south western Iowa. Please continue to work with her and help her make this event an awesome one. Thanks
Gregg Patz February 19, 2013 at 10:30 PM
My friends and I have been coming to the pirate fest each year since the very first one. We love this event but there are a few suggestions I would make. First, more vendors are always better but they really need to be vendors that sell quality merchandise that relates to the pirate theme. I come a long way to visit the pirate fest erach year and I am not going to purchase windows, basement waterproofing services, or chiropractic care at a pirate festival hundreds of miles from my home. Second, more participation from the town and the stores on the main streets would be nice. We wander the town as well as the lake front but often find the stores closed during the festival or worse empty. Please enlist the local businesses to participate, not only be open but to bring a pirate flair to their business we want to spend our money there please make it easy for us. Third, spread the food areas out more. This has gotten better over the years but cramming all the food under a tent or two makes it real crowded and hard to eat spread them throughout the area with lots of places to sit down and eat (like picnic tables). Fourth, post a schedule of events on a placard in several key places so we know what is going on where and when. It is hard to find this info some times and we have ofter missed things. Finally, take lots of pictures of the people who come in costume. We work hard on our costumes seeing ourselves on your website would make our day!
KimCreations April 17, 2013 at 04:44 AM
I am very upset at the way the festival cancellation is being handled. I am a vendor and I had already paid my booth fee for 2013, by the deadline of Mar 31. The organizer has made no attempt to contact the vendors with the cancellation information. I had to discover it on facebook by accident. There has been no response to my numerous attempts to contact her. I have no idea if I'm going to ever see that money again, and I am sure there are many others out there in the "same boat".

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