The Brentwood Chamber of Commerce event celebrated its 20th anniversary last year while occupying its fourth location in as many years. Formerly held in City Park in the heart of downtown, the CornFest was forced to relocate due to construction of the city’s new Civic Center, which included an overhaul of the park. The event was held on other downtown streets in 2010, in an empty field at Sand Creek and Brentwood Boulevard in 2011, and on Technology Way (and surrounding vacant lots) at Brentwood Boulevard in 2012.
Now that the construction is finished, there’s reluctance on the part of city officials, downtown residents and some Chamber directors to bring the event back to City Park. Among other factors, they fear that hosting an event attended by 20,000 to 40,000 people could cause expensive damage to the new park, and that a new median on Second Street reduces the number of possible vendors and complicates access for emergency vehicles.
This week the Chamber held its second meeting aimed at finding a permanent solution. About two dozen people attended, many of whom live in the Coppergate neighborhood next to last year’s site.
Discussion surrounded four possible locations, including last year’s Technology Way venue and a return to City Park. A pair of possible new locations on Brentwood Boulevard – on the roadway in the curve next to Safeway, and on the stretch of road between Balfour Road and Guthrie Lane – have also become more feasible by the transfer of Brentwood Boulevard to city control after the State Route 4 designation was officially moved to the former Bypass last year. Another pair of locations, Sunset Park and the field used in 2011, were also mentioned, but for various reasons were deemed unlikely to be available.
Incoming Chamber President Ken Seamann said there wasn’t enough time to pare the event down to a size that would fit in City Park, and expressed his concern that such a reduction in size would seriously impact the amount of money that would go to the 30-plus nonprofits that work the event, as well as to the Chamber. The event has provided as much as $60,000 for local charities, but since leaving City Park the numbers have been inconsistent. Last year the CornFest provided about $25,000 in charitable donations, while the 2010 event netted the charities nothing.
Since time to make major changes to the 2103 event has run out, the focus has turned to finding a location for the festival as it is. According to Dirk Ziegler, co-chair of last year’s event, the festival requires about 18 acres, plus an additional 20 acres for parking.
“Our biggest concerns are dust, parking and the impact it makes on residents,” said Ziegler. Residents of Coppergate in attendance Monday agreed that access to their community entrance, dust and security last year caused problems, but felt the issues were manageable – one more time.
“I’m OK with 2013, if you get rid of it permanently for 2014,” said Coppergate resident Marc Johnston. “If it’s still on Technology Way for 2014, there’s going to be a big problem.”
A number of people at the meeting thought it was time to revisit the CornFest’s purpose, perhaps returning to its original identity as a relatively small, free community celebration of the harvest. Others felt the bigger event was preferable, citing the revenue for nonprofits and the fact that the current Brentwood of 50,000 residents is a far cry from the town of under 10,000 that enjoyed the first CornFest.
“We’re kidding ourselves to think we can go back to people making figurines out of corn husks,” said one person.
Zeigler said the cooperation of the Coppergate residents was “huge,” and expressed confidence that the problems they experienced last year can be more effectively managed with a year’s worth of experience under the belt. He said discussions with the city about the Brentwood Boulevard locations would continue, but if they can’t be worked out for 2013, it was reassuring to know the Technology Way site was still viable.