Deadline settlement saved Ohio Sauerkraut Festival

A giant hot dog is topped with sauerkraut at the Hawg Dawgs booth, supporting the Waynesville High School’s athletic boosters, during Saturday’s Sauerkraut Festival in Waynesville, Ohio, Oct. 12, 2013. NICK DAGGY / STAFF

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A giant hot dog is topped with sauerkraut at the Hawg Dawgs booth, supporting the Waynesville High School’s athletic boosters, during Saturday’s Sauerkraut Festival in Waynesville, Ohio, Oct. 12, 2013. NICK DAGGY / STAFF

Seven tons of sauerkraut have been ordered for the 48th Annual Ohio Sauerkraut Festival, a sure signal the show will go on despite a dispute between the local government and and the operators of an event said to draw 100,000 people a year to Waynesville and refill the coffers of non-profits that drive the community.

“It’s business as usual. We’ve got everything resolved as far as we know,” said Sue Blair, president of the local school board and as well as chairman and de facto director of the Waynesville Area Chamber of Commerce, the organization that runs the festival, scheduled for 9 a.m. to 8 p.m, Saturday, Oct. 14, and and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 15, in the village downtown.

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“Were hoping we have some wonderful weather and we have a big turnout,”Blair added.

Before last year’s festival, the chamber and village council clashed over a range of issues including who paid for and was responsible for what.

After the festival, the council canceled the festival contract - with three years remaining - and rewrote the rules for local festivals and events in hopes of protecting the village’s interests and better sharing the costs and benefits.

This prompted warnings earlier this year from the chamber and its lawyer that the chamber might bow out this year, unless the village council relented on the agreement over local police hired for the event.

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In June, it seemed the dispute was solved after the local school district’s lawyer helped mediate the dispute.

Terms were apparently reached on issues including who was responsible for the liability for actions of local police serving as security at the festival.

While tentatively agreeing, chamber lawyer Martin Hubbell said he was still waiting for a call from the chamber insurance company ensuring him that it would sell them a policy covering the costs of legal defense, in the event there is a lawsuit claiming police misconduct.

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On July 14, the deadline - 90 days before the event - for signing the agreements, the council set a special meeting, where Mayor Dave Stubbs said it was ready to announce the village government would take over the event.

“We anticipated that the local civic groups would have been very interested in what was going to happen if the Chamber chose not to host the Festival this year. Because the Festival largely functions due the many hours of hard work donated by volunteers, the Festival will always happen, regardless of who’s hosting it,” Stubbs, also a festival volunteer, said in an email.

But the necessary agreements were signed, settling the matter - at least for this year.

“It ultimately was the best thing for the community for the festival to go on,” Blair said.

This week, food booth operators met for a meeting with officials in charge of health and fire safety.

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Committees have been established in anticipation of the big show, featuring 30 food booths, many featuring the sauerkraut, ordered from Frank's Kraut in Fremont, Ohio.

“Our festival is unique. All of our food booths are operated by non-profits in the Waynesville area,” said Blair, who you are likely to find during the festival working the information booth or walking through the crowds along with other green-shirted volunteers.

The chamber is still looking for a new director as it prepares for its signature event. But Blair said it can count on Barb Lindsay, the chamber’s office and event coordinator.

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“She’s the primary contact for the vendors. She holds the festival together,” Blair said.

Last year, the festival also raised $100,000 for the chamber.

As school board president, Blair is also able to elaborate on the importance of the festival for extracurricular groups in the Wayne Local Schools. The band earns money by picking up the trash, while food booths generate revenue for athletic boosters and the cheerleaders.

“Collectively it’s a very big impact on the school,” she said.

Blair said the deadline action was the result of the dispute getting “stuck in some legalese.”

“We’re all working very well together,” she added. “From the very beginning we all wanted the best for the community.”

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