Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Strawberry & Wine Festival turns into uranium controversy

Comments:  No strawberries are ready, where will they come from, why only the following: only one platinum level sponsorship offered, why was the strawberry thing different from other festivals.  This is not political, it is environmental!  KISS- keep it simple silly!  All festivals should have the same rules. 

Does strawberries and wine go with uranium mining, think not, Keep the Uranium Mining Ban! 
BY MARY BETH JACKSON mjackson@registerbee.com (434) 791-7981 | Posted: Monday, May 6, 2013 7:19 pm 
For an event celebrating fruit, the Gretna Strawberry & Wine Festival is in a political pickle.
The festival, an event of the Merchants Association of Gretna, has found itself in the middle of the uranium mining controversy.

Dianna Burkholder, one of the festival’s organizers, says the association is prohibiting handouts and yard signs during the event in an attempt to stay above the fray.

“We want to do what’s best for the community, but we can’t take a staunch political stance,” she said.
She added, “That’s not what we’re going for with this festival.”

The Merchants Association holds events such as the Strawberry & Wine Festival to promote the town and its businesses. Burkholder says she has received backlash concerning the festival’s biggest sponsor, member business Virginia Uranium, which requested the $2,000 platinum level sponsorship from the Merchants Association.

Some uranium mining opponents have expressed concern to the Danville Register & Bee that they are not being allowed to represent their interests, and the banners promoting the festival could be construed to confer the Merchants Association’s approval on VUI’s plans to mine uranium at Coles Hill.

Susan Stilwell, a local real estate agent and historic preservationist who has worked in public health out west where uranium mines have left a legacy of problems, is angered by VUI’s sponsorship of the festival.

“I find it horribly ironic that a company that will contaminate all our agricultural products has placed itself as a platinum sponsor,” she said. “I’m upset that the Merchants Association would accept their sponsorship.”

Sonja Ingram grew up near Gretna and attended Gretna schools. She says she was planning for weeks to attend the festival when she saw the banner.

“It looks to me like the whole thing is sponsored by Virginia Uranium,” she said.
She added, “I really want to support the Merchants Association, and I hope [the festival is] a success, but I and a lot of people would never support something with ties to Virginia Uranium.”

Ingram is staying home. She says she knows others, though, who plan to attend wearing “Keep the Ban” T-shirts.

She, too, says the sponsor is an awkward choice for a celebration of agriculture.

“Uranium has the potential to harm our agricultural industry,” she said.

Burkholder said the Merchants Association never intended to be in the middle. Name placement on the banner was part of the platinum level sponsorship package — and was before VUI bought in.
“We are not endorsing sponsors,” she said.

She added, “Everyone had an opportunity for sponsorship.”

There was only one platinum level sponsorship offered, and one of the privileges of that spot includes prominence in the event’s advertising. Other privileges in the platinum package included the sponsor’s name in all advertising, a brand logo and link from the festival’s website, mention in the event program and posters, and display space for promotions at the festival. The $1,000 gold level sponsorship also gives display space.

There are five vendors signed up to sell strawberry and wine-related products at the festival.

Commercial spots were offered for other product vendors and non-profits at $500 each, but nobody has yet bought a bought a commercial spot. Burkholder said businesses have opted instead for sponsorship packages, and no non-profit groups have bitten for commercial space, either. Unlike their Old Timers Jubilee event, the Strawberry & Wine Festival does not have a special category for community-related booths.

“I’ve tried to be as fair as possible,” she said.