Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink Intern Staff Reporter.
The San Juan Bautista City Council voted at its July 17 regular meeting to accept the application for the Great San Juan Bautista Rib Cook Off event for May 3-5, 2019.
On June 19, the council voted to deny the application from Jason Williams, director of the promoting company Williams, Ltd. that puts on the cook off, because it was scheduled for the same weekend as the the 35th annual California Indian Market.
During the June 19 meeting the council voted to accepted the Indian Market application and not the rib cook off. Councilman Tony Boch said he leaned toward telling Williams to pick another date because the Indian Market has been taking place in the same weekend for a while. According to the meeting’s agenda packet, the Indian Market has been the sole event on May 5 weekend for 35 years. Vice Mayor John Freeman said the city could benefit financially by separating the events.
Elaine Reyna, organizer of the Indian Market and leader of Peace Vision, opposed having two events during the same weekend because they attracted two different groups of people (those who drink and are looking for a party, and those who don’t) and said during the City Council meeting on June 19 she feared a decrease in sales at the market.
Peace Vision is the nonprofit organization through which Reyna organizes the Indian Market.
She also said it was important to have it on that weekend because it’s the first weekend of the Powwow circuit, which vendors from as far as South Dakota follow to sell their products.
Williams said he was willing to work with Reyna to make both events successful. During a negotiation before the special council meeting on June 26, Williams offered to include the Indian Market in the cook off print advertising; make a banner that directs people to the market; provide time on the performance stage; and provide a booth at the San Juan Bautista Art and Craft Festival in March to promote the market.
The rib cook off promoter also said it was impossible for him to change the dates because he is under contract to run other events. He handed out a calendar of his events to the council.
“Unfortunately based on my schedule, if I can’t do it on Cinco de Mayo weekend, I can’t do it,” Williams said.
He said he had talked to local business owners after the event who said they were very happy with amount of business they had done.
“Some of them said they had their best weekend they’d ever had in the history of their business,” Williams said.
Several residents, many of whom are local merchants, spoke to the council in support of having both events on the same weekend.
Marjorie Palmer read a statement she said was signed by more than 60 San Juan Bautista business owners stating the city could not afford to lose large downtown events.
“The merchants of San Juan Bautista propose that more than one event be allowed to occur on any given weekend in order to bring more people into our town to improve business,” Palmer said.
Palmer said she closed her shop, Black Oak Motorcycle, last month because of the lack of business. Her shop had been open for two years selling clothes, helmets, jewelry, and masks.
Margot Tankersley, owner of Margot’s Ice Cream Parlor, said the Indian Market/rib cook off weekend was the best her shop had had since it opened 22 years ago.
“It was fantastic,” she said. “I don’t even know if I got to go look at booths that whole weekend.”
She added that she didn’t see major issues that would cause the city to not have the two events on the same weekend, though she cited some empty alcohol bottles and cigarette butts left on planters, and that public garbage cans overflowed. She said she put extra trash in her own garbage to help out because “it was a fabulous weekend.”
Councilman Boch said the possible reason for the Indian Market’s decreased sales was that people didn’t know about the event. He said the solution was closing the street before the market so people would have to walk through the event and possibly purchase something there before making it to the cook off.
Councilman Chris Martorana pointed out this year’s event was not listed on Peace Vision’s website. He said that is one opportunity to raise awareness about the event along with social media.
“To me it’s an opportunity and it should be an opportunity because we’re driving so many more people into town,” Martorana said. “And an opportunity to get your message out because we have so many additional people coming.”
Councilman Dan De Vries, who is also an attorney for De Vries Law Group, was not present during the discussion and vote because he said he had previously represented one of the disputants.
Other San Juan Bautista City Council news
The City Council also voted to give $5,000 to San Juan-Aromas Tennis & Fitness to replace two tennis courts at San Juan School with six pickleball courts. The money is expected to come from Parks and Recreation, City Manager Michaele LaForge said.
San Juan-Aromas Tennis & Fitness treasurer Teresa Lavagnino and tennis instructor Chris Yoder plan to host pickleball tournaments hoping to attract about 200 players.
The grand opening is scheduled for Aug. 11.
The council authorized the city to contract with Maggiora Brothers Drilling for the Well 6 project. The $163,150 contract that includes a $25,000 contingency budget involves converting the agricultural well to a city well, according to the agenda package.
The conversion of the well is in an attempt to solve the city’s problem with nitrate-contaminated water and to meet water well standards. The city was cited by the California Water Resources Board for having insufficient backup well capacity in June 2017.
The city purchased the well from resident Dale Coke with ten annual payments of $100,000 along with 0.8 acres of land, as reported by BenitoLink in December 2017.
After a five-minute recess, the council approved the increase of Community Hall user fees. However, Mayor Jim West moved to vote on the increase as soon as he called the meeting back to order.
City Attorney Deborah Mall asked the mayor to allow time for public comment before the council voted. West said that since he got a motion and a second there needed to be no discussion.
Councilman De Vries called the action “totally illegal.”
City Manager LaForge and Councilman Martorana also attempted to guide the mayor to open the matter to public discussion.
West, after laughing about it, opened it to the public. The fee increase passed unanimously.