A meeting some predicted would be contentious quickly morphed into an amicable gathering of Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) officials and Pine and Strawberry Arts and Crafts Guild members.
It all unfolded Aug. 7 inside the Pine Cultural Center where four ADOT representatives from the state’s Prescott district met face to face with guild president Olga Sehnert, Community Educational, Recreational and Cultural Association (CERCA) president Mel Palmer and an audience of about 10 Pine and Strawberry residents.
All were on hand to discuss ADOT’s decision to ban parking on both sides of Beeline during the July 4th Arts and Crafts Festival. The sanction drew complaints from vendors, visitors and sponsors.
ADOT’s ruling also said Beeline could not be obscured by festival vendors who in past years had set up shop on both sides of the highway where they hocked fry bread, hot dogs, drinks, jewelry, sculptures and novelty items.
Those peddlers have come to be known as “rogue vendors” because they did not operate from the confines of the community center festival site and did not pay fees to the sponsoring arts and crafts guild.
Vendors, both those with booths in the community center and others on the roadside, were furious over ADOT’s mandate, some saying they wouldn’t return to future festivals.
Following the Independence Day controversy, ADOT scheduled Thursday’s meeting in an effort to come to some kind of consensus on how to host the festivals safely.
Most lauded the meeting as productive.
“The meeting was very positive all the way around,” said Sehnert.
Palmer agreed, “ADOT is definitely trying to work with us. They realize the problems that a small community has in putting on events with vendors.”
After about 30 minutes of give and take discussion, ADOT officials agreed to lift the parking restrictions on Beeline and to modify the requirement to have electronic signage at both ends of Pine warning drivers of slow moving traffic and pedestrians.
The electronic signage at the July 4 festival had cost the arts and crafts guild $1,400.
“Renting those signs were very costly and was really taking money from our community as we donate every penny we make from the festival to the community,” said Sehnert. “That decision alone was a very positive and financially helpful.”
With the new mandates from ADOT, the guild will now purchase two non-electronic signs to place at each end of Pine that will read, “Event ahead – use caution.”
The signs, however, must meet ADOT specifications.
Also the guild must now have three Sheriff’s Posse members on daily traffic control rather than one or two as previously used.
“The extra posse member will be at the intersection of Hardscrabble and Highway 87 to try to keep traffic from bottlenecking at that intersection,” Palmer said.
With parking and traffic-pedestrian safety issues mostly solved, the discussion at the meeting turned to the so-called “rogue vendors.”
Speaking for the guild, Sehnert stressed, “We do not have any control on street vendors, and they make their arrangement with individual merchants to set up in front of their establishments.”
One audience member spoke up to say, “As long as the property owners on Beeline allow them (to set up vendor sites) there is nothing to be done.”
ADOT officials quickly countered telling the audience vendors could not set up in the right of way which is 30 to 33 feet from the center of Beeline, depending on the location.
Just last week, ADOT set up a sign on the east side of Beeline near the historic Bondurant home which reads “Selling or Advertising Prohibited.”
With most of the festival problems and issues now rectified, the guild and others are looking forward to another highly successful Labor Day Arts and Crafts Festival which is traditionally one of the largest of the season.