Town council debates food at Coupeville Arts Crafts Festival

If it happens this year, the festival will likely be a downsized version of itself.

If Coupeville’s annual Arts and Crafts Festival happens this summer, it will likely be a downsized version — as of Tuesday’s town council meeting, entertainment and food are still on the chopping block.

The town council will need to approve the festival board’s request for a special event permit soon to give the board enough time to arrange vendors. The festival board’s initial permit application described a very scaled-back event, one which would feature far fewer craft vendors than usual and forego live entertainment and food.

Though council members largely agreed they would like to go ahead with the festival if state COVID-19 regulations in August allow it, they didn’t reach a conclusion in Tuesday’s meeting about which safety measures they might require, especially in regards to food.

On one hand, foregoing food could make the festival a little safer. Visitors wouldn’t linger as long, relieving congestion in the streets and making it easy to spread out, and no one would need to remove their face masks to eat.

“I’m kind of conservative on COVID,” council member Pat Powell said. “I would just hate to see any hot spot happen.”

On the other hand, if food isn’t available at the festival, visitors might overwhelm the town’s small selection of local restaurants. Councilmember Jenny Bright said Coupeville’s restaurants are already overtaxed right now, as many are understaffed and struggling to serve their regular number of customers.

Council members also worried about customer satisfaction; will people still have a positive experience at the festival if it’s difficult to find a place to eat?

Councilmember Rick Walti spoke in favor of holding the festival as they have in the past, without any limitations, since many Washingtonians are fully vaccinated or will be by August.

“People are adults,” he said. “If they don’t want to come, if they feel threatened, they don’t have to come to the event.”

In the end, the council decided to table the discussion until their next meeting — getting as close as they can to what Mayor Molly Hughes called the festival board’s “drop-dead date.”

According to council discussion, it is likely the council will issue a permit with conditions, allowing the festival to go forward so long as it adheres to guidelines that may be forthcoming from Island County Public Health or the governor’s office. Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to reopen the state on June 30.