OYSTER FESTIVAL-Too Big For the Plaza?

It was only a couple of days before Saturday’s Festival that I took a really good look at the festival map. I discovered to my horror that the powers-that-be at Arcata Main Street had decided to eliminate the parking lot/shuttle stop on Samoa Boulevard down around K Street “due to not enough use”, as the staffer told me when I called to complain. Their revised plan was to cut off access to the Plaza from the North so that anyone who rode the shuttles and got off at their stops on 11th Street had to walk all the way down to 7th Street to get access.

I know three extra blocks doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re (hopefully temporarily) disabled as I am that’s a real issue. I’m using a cane due to a recent knee replacement and three blocks is beyond my comfort zone so I called Arcata Main Street and spoke with a nice person who directed me to their “ADA parking” off 7th Street. Those dear folks, with all the good intentions in the world, had set side a big fat 16 parking spaces for a festival expected to attract 16,000 oyster fans. Even the person I was speaking to realized how silly that sounded. I don’t recall the actually ADA setasides for outdoor Festivals but it’s a helluva lot more than 1 in 1000. 

So we ended up showing up at before 8am in order to get a closeby parking space. In a way, it was great because by the time the Plaza got hot and crowded, we were ready to go home. On the other hand, when you leave at noon you miss a lot of stuff.  I found myself wondering WHY the Festival is on the Plaza in the first place. There’s no connection between the Plaza and the Oysters and the Festival disrupts the Farmers’ Market every year. Moving it to the Community Center would lost the “Festival” aspect. The Festival should be held on the BAY!!  Woodley Island isn’t part of Arcata Main Street’s domain plus it’s too small and getting everyone on and off the island would be a nightmare.  But looking ahead to an era when lots of interesting developments are coming up in Samoa, I hope that one day the Festival will expand its footprint,  reducing the congestion.  We can only hope.

Congratulations to AMS and their volunteers for another successful Festival, but let’s put a little more thought into the arrangements next year. 

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11 thoughts on “OYSTER FESTIVAL-Too Big For the Plaza?

  1. 1. The event goal is not to bring business downtown, but rather to fund the organization that does other thing to bring business downtown.
    2. Another local event, Bebop & Brew, died in part because it was moved to the fields around the Community Center. The same would happen to O.F., because that place has no heart and soul.
    3. Really, move an Arcata-named event to Eureka? What have you been smoking?
    4. The Arcata Marsh environment would suffer if large events were held there.
    5. The plaza is NOT there for business, it is there for the community. Yes having occasional large events there is an inconvenience, but buck up — they’re for the rest of us and they aren’t going anywhere.

  2. Jane: Not the Marsh, but the big parking lot at the end of I Street. Plastic “snow” fencing can be temporarily installed between the asphalt and the marsh area.

  3. The Humboldt Pride Festival outgrew the Arcata Plaza, too.

    We now use Eureka’s Halvorsen Park. It’s right across the bay from Woodley Island, has plenty o space for parking & lots of room for 60-70 vendors, 4-6 food trucks, 2 stages and 2 bouncy houses.

    Eureka rents the park at incredibly good prices for a non-profit like us.

  4. I agree with Jane, but the historical roots of the Oyster Festival was to draw people to downtown Arcata and the businesses that are in it. The Arcata Downtown Business Community, the original name of Arcata Main Street, created four events during the year for this purpose as it was part of the methodology of what constituted a Main Street city. Eureka, Fort Bragg, Chico are other cities that adopted the Main Street model to revitalize their downtowns. That said, The Arcata Bay Oyster Festival has probably outgrown its original intent of helping to foster downtown commerce.

  5. No, the bigger lot at the foot of I Street where Marsh tours used to be conducted before the Interpretive Center was built on South G Street. It also has views of Arcata Bay as opposed to the small lot on South G.

  6. The Arcata Bay Oyster Festival was originally conceived as a promotion for the businesses on the Plaza in much the same way that malls and downtowns create events to spur business. That said, maybe it is time to rethink the venue since it would seem that people attend because of the festival and not as an opportunity to shop in the stores. Since it is called the Arcata Bay Oyster Festival, perhaps the big parking lot at the end of I Street overlooking the Marsh and Arcata Bay might be an appropriate venue.

    • That parking lot or what about the generally underutilized South G Street corridor? The shoe store next to the bank on 7th was getting some business but I didn’t notice whether anyone else was picking up customers from the Plaza.

    • The Oysterfest DOES NOT help local businesses, it hurts them. Sure, maybe the bars and a restaurant or two, but there is a REASON why many businesses close early or close all together.In general, when festivals happen on the plaza, people give their money to vendors outside and rarely venture inside a store. I know. I am a downtown business owner. I can’t even count how many business owners I know that hate the Oysterfest.Aside from the lack of sales, we have to deal with obnoxiously drunk people in our stores. I have even been told by two business owners that they have had people throw up in their stores.Others have had to stop fights in their stores and call the cops on drunken shoplifters.My store has a far better day with Farmer’s market traffic, but with the festival, they don’t come near our store and many locals avoid the plaza all together that day.I am not against festivals, but they have clearly outgrown the plaza.I just looked at the police log for arrests that day and there is an astronomical list of “Drunk in Public” and DUI offenses.I do not believe that people have designated drivers and as we all know, there are thousands of people drinking themselves into oblivion on the plaza.It is certainly not an event for children.I just do not get why we even have a community center if we can’t use it for a festival such as this. There is parking, bathrooms, electricity, huge fields, and even an indoor space in the event of rain. I have been told they don’t want lawn damage, but really? Those lawns are used for games on a daily basis. We have to re-seed the plaza lawn every year anyway? What’s the big deal? The piece above states that it would “Lose the festival aspect.” Why? That makes no sense at all.As business owners downtown, WE are the ones who must pay the price for broken windows and clean up the vomit from our doorways. Windows are VERY expensive! HOW then is it that this festival is suppose to promote downtown business. Makes absolutely no sense.In fact, I would go so far as to say that Mainstreet’s bank account is the only benefactor from this out of control, drunken event.Well, them and the beer and oyster vendors. The business owners see none of the thousands of dollars that are made.This is not the kind of festival that should be held on the plaza.I am so, so tired of it and it’s damaging effects. Let’s move it. It’s clear that it’s a mess. It’s time. Change is good people.

        • Thanks. I wish more people new the businesses view of it.We need more discussion about this before next year. Also, I’m not saying that the Community center is the only option, but it seems like the best to me.I would hate to think of the marsh area being trampled or littered or wildlife affected as it is a very special place that is ultimately a preserve for the wonderful variety of birds that we have here. I love that place.

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