Anguished over attendance that dropped by nearly half since 2004, the organizers of this year’s Tracy Dry Bean Festival will offer free admission.
It is a wise decision. The $5 entrance fee, reinstated in 2006 after 10 years to raise festival revenue, didn’t do the trick. The move was unsuccessful because our society expects something for nothing. The entrance fee also wasn’t beholden to the vendors who are an important aspect of the downtown weekend festival. Vendors expect the 80,000-plus crowds of yesteryear. If the attendance is half as much, and already $5 leaner in the wallet, the vendors are less apt to set up their tents.
Perhaps as meaningful is the announcement that the Tracy Chamber of Commerce won’t contract out the festival’s production. The decisionmakers should be the chamber staff, headed by retiring chamber Executive Director Dan Maloney, and the volunteer bean festival committee.
Going back to its roots shows that the bean festival will remain a family-oriented, community-supporting event. If the festival organizers can bring back the missing “dry bean” feel, be assured that the visitors will follow.