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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

SF's Cherry Blossom to be Shortened to One Weekend?

This is nothing to cheer about...

Word from one of my inside sources in Japantown is that the Northern California Cherry Blossom may consider eliminating their first weekend of the festival in favor to keep their second weekend. They note that the higher rates from the SFMTA Board of Directors for street closures, increase in price to re-route Muni vehicles during parade day, and a higher price for Police Officers may be the demise of the festival.

Historically, the Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco's Japantown has operated on two weekends in April. Things started looking grim when the most recent festival this year was going to eliminate the Senior Appreciation Brunch program, a tradition with Cherry Blossom on the second weekend on parade day (Sunday). The committee claimed it was due to a lack of funding, but was eventually able to scrape enough money together to fund the brunch and the motorized Cable Car rental for the parade.

Some of you may be thinking that eliminating the first weekend is a good idea in order to save the festival. Also, I'm betting that jackass condo association president at 1600 Webster is dancing like a miner who found gold.

Unfortunately, in a community perspective, it's a TERRIBLE IDEA. The Cherry Blossom festival was created by the local merchant's association to boost business to the neighborhood, and for sure, this festival has helped the neighborhood's economy a lot.

For the community organizations, losing the first weekend is terrible! Many Japantown organizations rent space for the food fair on Webster Street and sell their yummy food. But it's not just the food, they make a ton in profits with their sales, and that is plenty to money to cover the space rental, permits (fire department and health inspector), and other associated costs of the festival. For example, one booth alone sold an average of 2,500 of their product in just one weekend with one weekend's sales totaling approximately $12,000 to $13,000. That's a lot of money for a community organization. This is the reason why the food booths during Cherry Blossom are for non-profit community organizations, they use the profits to help serve the Japantown community.

The Nihonmachi Street Fair in Japantown during August is a one weekend event, but is much smaller in scale and has a much smaller budget than Cherry Blossom. They fund raise in a very unique way by selling their food and/or beverages at Cherry Blossom, but they also have a special fundraising concert every year that stars one of Hawaii's top performers.

I'm not sure how Cherry Blossom can fund raise as uniquely as Nihonmachi Street Fair can, but the Cherry Blossom committee needs to be very careful in how much they charge for booth rental space on the streets. If they charge too much, vendors and organizations will steer away from paying the rent, even though they can likely recoup their losses through sales.


annie said...

"Also, I'm betting that jackass condo association president at 1600 Webster is dancing like a miner who found gold."

Nice try, but untrue.

I was out of town this year for both weekends, unfortunately, but heard the second was much more crowded. I believe the weather was nice for both. So if it's earning enough money as you say, then perhaps there is some mismanagement at that level.

Maybe look to point fingers the association running it instead.

Akit said...

I was saying about the 1600 Webster property because the condo tenant association president pissed-off the entire Japantown community last August. It's like he doesn't want the community or its events to exist.

annie said...

I know why you were saying it. I know what happened. And I am telling you that the HOA board and the Cherry Festival pres have a very harmonious relationship at this point.

And I am also reasserting that the board is not doing dances for joy.

I thought about this more last night, and am a little confused by your argument...you do or don't think the vendors should have to pay more? If they are making a ton of money, and the price of the festival overhead has gone up, who else but the vendors are to pay that price tag? Or are you saying they should pay a little more because they make so much. Just trying to clarify.

While the shutdowns for two weekends are inconvenient for me personally, I wouldn't want to see this festival go away. Like many festivals in the city, it is part of what makes SF what it is. I do think the vendors and organizers need to come up with a better solution, or else everyone loses.

Akit said...

I'm not talking about your board, I'm talking about your Board's president (David Zisser) last August who pissed the entire neighborhood off. I don't blame any of the tenants or your board members at all.

Read more: http://www.akit.org/2008/11/update-japantowns-festivals-david.html

And if you want more, read up on the neighborhood newspapers (Nichi Bei and New Fillmore) who interviewed him.

To answer your question about the food vendors paying more, the problem is that the organizations have to pay up-front, months before the actual event. That alone causes a hardship on the organizations struggling to stay afloat.

Some organizations decide to only sell on one weekend versus the other due to the high cost, and it may be a gamble as well. If your item is not too popular, you may actually go in the red, some break even, but plenty make it profitable.

But truly unique about this that I always mention is that it's all non-profits and the regulations set by the CBF committee requires that nobody sells the same food item so that everyone can focus on a particular product. Look at other festivals, they are all just for-profit places and some actually compete for the same exact food item.

annie said...

I know exactly who you are talking about. And continue to stand by what I know directly from the horse's mouth, so to speak.

At any rate, more to the issue, who do you think should pick up the increased costs if not the vendors? I guess that is what is confusing me. I understand they are non-profits, but that's neither here nor there. The overhead costs have gone up, and someone needs to pick up the pricetag. So how do you solve this problem? Cut a day and save on a ton of those costs, or make the vendors pay more? I don't think anyone wants to do that, but, if prices are going up...unless you think the prices should go back down, which just isn't going to happen at this point.

I am just confused by your argument, maybe because I am not seeing the proposal of a solution. Do you want the local J-town business to pick up some of the tab? Many of them are struggling just as much as the non-profits. Or the residents through more assessed taxes (which, we already have a bunch)? Maybe the vendors can pay some up front, and then a percentage of their profits immediately after the festival? That way those that do better have to pay a little more, and those for whom it may be a risk would take the chance and try it on for size?

Akit said...

Good question about who should pick-up the increased costs if not the vendors.

This is a tough one!

I think the Cherry Blossom Committee should try to fund raise more, just like the Nihonmachi Street Fair committee does, but CBF would have to make-up for a lot more money because their permits costs are a heck of a lot more expensive (more blocks closed, parade route, and especially the police coverage).

One fundraiser that nearly every festival does is sponsorship, and they especially get major sponsors to sponsor the ladies for the Queen pageant program.

Unfortunately, I have to believe that the festival would ask more from the vendors, whether it be before the event, or a post-event fee. This also means the raising of prices of the food too.

Regarding food sale costs, I observed that many food booths sell food that costs more than going to a restaurant, but people know it is for good causes and if the booth has a good reputation for a quality product, they love coming back and buying more. For the booth I volunteered for, the old price was $3, but we eventually went to $5 each and still have a high demand.