MONTESANO — County Commissioner Frank Gordon says it “really pisses me off” that the Elma Chamber of Commerce is no longer hosting the annual Wine &Seafood Festival at the county fairgrounds, calling it “a slap in the face to the whole damn county.”
The Chamber moved the event from the fairgrounds, which is owned by the county, to the Satsop Business Park, which is owned by the Port, three years ago. The festival draws hundreds of people to experience wines from all over the region and held another successful festival earlier this month.
“We have a better facility at the fairgrounds,” Gordon said. “The site up there is (owned by) the Port of Grays Harbor and we’re using tax funds to support a government entity. I’m very against that. I would much rather have seen the funds being spent at the fairgrounds or some other places where the money rotates back to the community itself. This just goes up to the Port to fill one of their empty dumps they’ve got up there because they can’t get anybody to rent it. I think it’s a flat waste of our money.”
On Monday, Commissioner Gordon joined fellow commissioners Wes Cormier and Herb Welch in approving $2,000 in tourism tax dollars for next year’s festival. That’s down from the $5,000 requested, but is in line with the recommendation made by the county’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee. The festival also gets funds from the City of Elma.
But Gordon said if the Elma Chamber doesn’t take a serious look at moving the festival, he may not support the county funds next year.
Fair Director Mike Bruner said the Chamber was always welcome to use the fairgrounds.
“This is just like us saying let’s have a wine tasting at the Aberdeen bus barn because Aberdeen needs more money,” Gordon said. “That’s baloney. … This is a slap in the face to the county, the fairgrounds and, it’s a slap in the face to the people of Elma. If it were in the fairgrounds, Elma would get a lot more business and it’s a slap in the face to the whole damn county. And I’m just furious.”
Gordon suggested that the county host its own wine tasting event to compete with the Chamber’s festival.
Elma Chamber Director Debbie Adolphsen says she’s perplexed to hear of Gordon’s criticism. She said the event was moved to the Satsop Business Park for multiple reasons, including a better price. Plus, she noted, the fairgrounds had humidity problems, leaving slippery floors; had heating issues and Wi-Fi connectivity issues.
“The fair is a great venue for animal shows, but didn’t work for us anymore,” Adolphsen said. “We fill half the hotel (in Elma), get reservations at the RV parks and help our local businesses.”
Adolphsen, who is the retired fair director, notes she continues to love the fairgrounds.
“I love that place and will always support the fair,” she said. “We can have a bigger event at Satsop.”
This is the seventh year for the Wine &Seafood Festival, which attracts a couple dozen wineries from all over the region as well as entertainment from all over the area.
The festival had a shuttle that went from the city to the Satsop Business Park grounds.
The Elma Chamber of Commerce uses the county’s tourism tax dollars to help promote the event.