GREENVILLE— During the inaugural Danish Festival more than half a century ago, the Marketplace at Veterans Park began with a single hot dog stand and a few flea market vendors.
Today, that same marketplace, operated by the Women’s Action Network (WAN), welcomes more than 100 vendors during Greenville’s annual celebration.
Serving as the largest fundraiser for WAN, the nonprofit organization uses its revenues collected during Danish Festival weekend to provide for items such as the annual senior tea for graduating female seniors at Greenville High School, college scholarships for students and adults, and several other charities.
But recently, friction has arisen between WAN and the Danish Festival Executive Board, as the two organizations have attempted to negotiate terms on the use of the park.
During the March 7 meeting of the Greenville City Council, WAN President Kamey Krum-Howe, supported by nearly a dozen members of WAN, pleaded with the council, claiming negotiations with the festival board have failed.
“For 50 years we’ve operated parallel to the Danish Festival for the mutual benefit of both organizations,” Krum-Howe told the council. “Recently, the Danish Festival Board has requested to renegotiate this long-term relationship and has presented WAN with several proposals that treat the WAN Marketplace as a subsidiary of the Danish Festival, not as a parallel organization, despite a clearly demonstrated history of independence.”
According to Krum-Howe, after several unsuccessful attempts to reach a middle ground, the festival board requested that WAN sign a contract effectively dissolving its ability to use Veterans Park during the festival. But Krum-Howe believes the festival board has no basis to support its claim.
“Based on the history, WAN believes that the city of Greenville, not the Danish Festival Board, has authority over the park,” she said. “We request that the council become involved in the negotiation of the relationship between WAN, the Danish Festival, and the use of the park.”
No direction was given by the Greenville City Council.
“While we are not able to respond to your concerns, we will certainly take them under consideration and make a note of them,” Mayor Pro Tem Frances Schuleit said.
Greenville City Manager George Bosanic shared the following statement with The Daily News on Thursday: “It is the position of the city that this matter is best left to be resolved between the WAN and the Danish Festival Board. The city sincerely appreciates the passion, dedication and effort the WAN contributes to the community, but the permission for use of city-owned properties, including park space, during Danish Festival weekend is given to the Danish Festival Board which includes the use of Vet’s Park. If WAN and the Danish Festival Board cannot come to an agreement on the matter, WAN is welcome to submit a request for the use of Veterans Park or perhaps another location on an alternate weekend through the Recreation Department and it will be given due consideration. Alternatively, the city suggests that both parties mutually seek a community member who is respected, neutral and trusted by both parties to broker a mutual agreement. It is the city’s position that it is not appropriate for the City Council nor the city’s staff to act in this capacity.”
Danish Festival Executive Director Pam Jorae, who is in the process of retiring as director, referred The Daily News to Festival Board Vice President Wayne Baker for comment.
Baker told The Daily News that the festival board has been in talks with WAN since September 2016 regarding Veterans Park.
“Our whole purpose of discussing was to help the Danish Festival remain responsible, as well as keeping the playing field open for other groups such as WAN,” Baker said. “We’ve asked WAN to cover our expenses for the event. We’ve offered several different options, but have not been able to reach any kind of agreement.”
Krum-Howe provided The Daily News with copies of expenses to WAN. Per the Danish Festival Board, the Danish Festival receives a total of $2,900 in income from WAN through a $1,500 stipend, $500 scholarship, and $900 Music in the Park sponsorship.
The total expenses regarding Veterans Park that the Danish Festival incurs amounts to $5,039.25, which breaks down into “hard expenses,” such as portable bathrooms, dumpsters, and insurance, and “soft expenses,” such as administrative fees and marketing.
WAN estimates this year their own expenses at the park will total $5,410, including the $1,500 stipend and the $500 scholarship, as well as other items such as an inflatable bouncy slide, a vendor breakfast, and signage. Of the 100 or so vendors who participate every year, half of them have already paid in full for the year’s festival.
Krum-Howe also pointed to items such as a one-time payment of $1,700 to the city of Greenville in 2016 to upgrade electrical services at the park.
Baker remains hopeful that a positive resolution will be reached between the two organizations. He said the current situation cannot continue.
“In today’s climate, we can’t afford to subsidize Veterans Park. All I know is, unfortunately, we can’t continue the way things are,” he said. “WAN does a lot of good things for our community, we’re the first to admit that. But we also believe that Danish Festival adds value to the community, and we want to be good stewards with the funds that we raise.
“We’ve tried to be professional and work out an agreement,” he continued. “Right now we are only five months away from the festival. We want what’s best for the festival and the Greenville community. At this point, we’re just continuing on, planning Danish Festival for this year. I don’t exactly know how it’s all going to work out.”