The fate of one of Whidbey Island’s long-standing festivals is up in the air.
Whidbey Island Area Fair’s move to the end of July now conflicts with Greenbank Farm’s annual Loganberry Festival.
The date change prompted Greenbank Farm and Port of Coupeville officials to cancel this year’s festival.
“We’ve suspended Loganberry because the world has changed around us,” said Greenbank Farm Executive Director Judy Feldman. “We’re simply responding to a change. This is a sad day for us.”
The conflicts from the fair’s date change were various, Feldman said. It wasn’t one exact thing that caused the cancellation.
A big factor was both events showcased 4-H groups; the members would have to choose between events.
Other considerations were vendors, sponsors and volunteer time.
“This will be a chance for us to find out how important the festival is to people,” Feldman said. “When a significant event moves, it has a ripple effect.”
Before making the decision to suspend the event, Feldman said farm and port officials looked at every possibility, including moving the date, but could not find one that would work.
“It was a carefully considered decision,” she said.
Greenbank Farm is run by a management group, and the contract for that group is coming up next year.
Feldman said while the festival is suspended this year, she’s not sure of its future because she doesn’t know if the same management group will still be operating the farm.
“We can’t really make bold promises without knowing the future,” she said. It depends on who’s managing the farm next year, she added.
Coupeville Chamber Director Lynda Eccles, who serves on Island County’s tourism board, said she was sad to hear the festival was cancelled this year.
“It’s no easy decision to make,” she said. “It could not be an easy decision for them.”
While the impacts of the festival’s cancellation on tourism is unclear, Eccles said the community will likely be more affected.
“Anytime you lose an event that’s part of a tradition for years and years, that’s sad,” she said. “There will be some disappointed people. It’s always been a popular event.”
“It’s part of Central Whidbey tradition.”
That said, Eccles said there are a lot of events throughout the summer and the people who come to the island will still visit Greenbank Farm.
“It’s a huge draw,” she said.
The Loganberry Festival was started by Chateau Ste. Michelle prior to Port of Coupeville’s purchase of the farm in 1997.
Greenbank Farm was established as a dairy farm in 1904 and the first loganberries were planted in 1943. At one time the farm was the largest loganberry farm in the United States.
It’s not a major fundraiser, but gives the opportunity to gather the community together and celebrate the farm, Feldman said.
The management group is working with tenants at the farm to discuss ideas for other ways to bring the community together and celebrate the farm.
Several ideas are in discussion, but Feldman said the farm isn’t ready to release them.