Citydrops ball with Folklife invite

Published on Thu, May 24, 2007 by ara Nelson

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City drops ball with Folklife invite

By Tara Nelson

Complications and miscommunications between the Blaine Tourism Advisory Committee (BTAC) and the United States/Canada Peace Anniversary Association (USCPAA) led to Blaine losing an opportunity to garner a four-day spot at Seattle’s Folklife Festival this weekend.

The festival, which attracts an annual 250,000 visitors from around the state and region, celebrates music, dance, food and traditional arts of ethnic and cultural communities. Organizers said the theme of this year’s event will focus on the traditions of communities on both sides of the U.S./Canada border between Washington state and British Columbia and features presenters from such municipalities as Lynden and Point Roberts. Scheduled performances include Dutch dancers, Sikh singers, Doukobor woodcarvers and French-Canadian musicians.
Christina Alexander, president of the USCPAA said the organization was invited to represent Peace Arch Park, the monument and the organization’s international sculpture exhibit and she had extended the invitation to the city of Blaine as a partnership in the event.

Last year, the festival focused on the Arabic communities of the Pacific Northwest, and the year before, it focused on the African communities,

When asked why organizers selected Blaine as a cultural focus partner, Michael Herschensohn, executive director of the festival, cited the recent focus on borders and the communities that surround them.

“Everyone’s talking about borders, so we thought why not look at the border communities,” Herschensohn said. “And Blaine is clearly a critical place when it comes to border crossing and cultural sharing and peacekeeping.

“There’s also a kind of idealism there with the Peace Arch and it’s clearly a regional tourist attraction. We’re really sorry that Blaine can’t be here this year.”

In October of 2006, the USCPAA filed an application for $10,000 to the BTAC committee to cover travel, accommodations, administrative, material and promotional expenses.

Alexander said after repeated calls to the city, she was told in February that she may be invited to participate as a volunteer for the city. Later that month, Alexander was told she would have to file for a separate funding application if she would like to attend.

“For four months nobody would talk to us and then when we tried to talk to them, no one would listen,” she said.

Then, on March 22, one day before the deadline to submit their program to the festival, Alexander sent Herschensohn a letter stating that her organization would not be able to attend as a cultural focus partner for their exhibit.

In response, Herschensohn wrote that he was disappointed to learn the association was not able to attend.

“Blaine’s presence at the Festival would have surely increased its visibility in Seattle and led to an increase in tourism next summer and into the future,” he wrote. “This year’s festival theme focuses on the border between Washington state and the Province of British Columbia and will provide a great opportunity for our audience of 275,000 people to learn about the cultural vitality of this unique part of the world.”

Four days later, on March 26, Tomsic sent Alexander an email stating that the $3,500 she had requested for travel expenses was “too high” and asked for a more detailed budget and receipts for these expenditures.

He also said the additional $8,000 asked for in project development, advertising, promotion and web design was “unclear” and without further information, doubted that these expenditures would be allowed.
“At that point, we told Gary the money was too late and we had to move our attention on to the sculpture exhibit,” she said. “We went around in circles with him and we finally had to just give up.”
When asked how this happened, Tomsic said the USCPAA missed their deadline.

“The fact that they missed the deadline has nothing to do with the city, that was their responsibility,” he said in an email to The Northern Light. “The money can be used for anything that qualifies, but if she wants to use it for something other than (that), she would have to get BTAC approval.”

Blaine city council member John Lieber said he had made an attempt to forge a working relationship between the city and the USCPAA, but was unsuccessful.

“There was a difference in philosophy as to how the money would be allocated and it was never mediated to the best of my knowledge,” he said. “I think all of us appreciate Christina’s passion, she’s done a great job. Gary also does a tremendous job and it’s unfortunate that these things couldn’t be worked out.”

Still, Alexander said the city missed an invaluable opportunity to promote itself along with other along the northern border.

“What we wanted to do with the money was secondary to seizing the opportunity to showcase our community, I still don’t understand how the BTAC committee’s focus gravitated to the display rather than the event itself,” she said. “It would have been a great opportunity to re-introduce Blaine to the people of the Pacific Northwest.”

Alexander said the USCPAA managed to reserve a one-hour slot at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 27 at the Seattle Center’s Narrative stage to discuss the Peace Arch state park, the monument and the organization’s goals.

The event runs May 25 through 28 at the Seattle Center in downtown. Suggested donation is $10 per person. For more information, visit www.nwfolklife.org.