'Always Coca-Cola' means Fallfest vendors cannot sell soda pop Optimists say move will reduce proceeds

September 17, 1998|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

For the first time in the 20-year history of Westminster Fallfest, vendors at the four-day celebration will be prohibited from selling carbonated beverages, a move that has drawn criticism from a local nonprofit group.

The Westminster Optimist Club has complained to the nine-member Fallfest Committee, criticizing its decision to bar the club and 17 other food vendors from selling carbonated drinks.

"Fallfest is one of our biggest moneymakers," said Henry Lysy, Optimist president. "With this policy, they take about 50 percent of the funds we usually raise at this event and basically give the money to another organization."

The reason behind the Fallfest Committee's decision is corporate sponsorship. Coca-Cola Inc. is sponsoring the festival. As a result, the company's products will be the only carbonated drinks available to the 40,000 people expected to attend the event. The Fallfest Committee will be the only organization selling sodas.

"Coca-Cola convinced us that we would be able to generate more money if we manage the sales ourselves," said Fallfest Committee member Ronald J. Schroers. The committee hopes to raise $5,000 to $6,000 from the Coca-Cola sales, he added.

Schroers said the Fallfest Committee notified vendors of the policy change in February when it mailed contracts to each of them.

The money generated by Fallfest is donated to local charities, whose members must donate time to the event. This year, proceeds will be distributed among the Arc of Carroll County, Carroll Hospice, Carroll Transit Systems, Human Services Programs Inc., Kiwanis Club of Westminster Inc. and Bright Vision Therapeutic Riding.

The nonprofit groups were selected from a field of 15 that applied in March to be Fallfest recipients. The Optimists didn't apply.

"We never even thought of doing that. All we wanted to do was sell our pizza and soda," said Lysy, who this week submitted a petition signed by 400 county residents to the mayor and the Common Council, asking local leaders to speak with Fallfest organizers on the Optimist Club's behalf.

Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan and the five-member council refused to take action, citing the city's lack of authority over the Fallfest Committee, which is composed of volunteers. Local leaders also took umbrage with the Optimists for bringing the issue to them shortly before the festival, which will run from Sept. 24 to 27.

"The Fallfest Committee, and all of the organizations they're raising money for, do good work," Lysy told the mayor and council. "I'm not trying to be negative or put anybody down. I just don't think the committee realizes the impact of what they're doing."

For the past decade, the Optimist Club has sold pizza and soda at Fallfest. In recent years, the group has raised about $2,000 at the event.

This year, it will raise closer to $1,000, Lysy said.

The Optimist Club was the only vendor to complain, Schroers said.

"No one else has had a problem with it," he said. "The vendors can still make their money. They can sell any noncarbonated beverage they want to -- water, juices, coffees, iced teas, etc."

The Optimists said they probably won't exercise that option.

"What would we sell, milk? Milk doesn't go with pizza," Lysy said. "When you buy pizza, you buy soda."

Pub Date: 9/17/98

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