Spear reverses decision about charging fee for Boothbay Winter Festival

Several locals criticized charging to attend Boothbay Common event
Fri, 12/03/2021 - 7:45am

    Boothbay Winter Festival’s organizer has changed his mind about requiring an admission fee. One day after a Nov. 30 private meeting with Town Manager Dan Breyer and local business leaders, organizer Lester Spear announced he would no longer require a fee, but instead ask for donations.

    This is the festival’s second season. The first year was held on Spear’s Route 27 property. Year two was moved to Boothbay Common as a better location for parking, patrons and facilities. The festival is a separate event held in conjunction with Gardens Aglow and Boothbay Lights. All three run from Nov. 20 to Jan. 1. 

    On Nov. 30, Spear met with local business owners and Bryer on Boothbay Common to discuss why he was charging a fee for an event on public land. According to Spear, the meeting’s purpose was to set the record straight. “There’s been a lot of misinformation out there and Betty Maddocks (Janson’s Clothing) asked to meet with me,” he said. 

    On Nov. 10, Spear told selectmen he needed to charge the fee to recoup unanticipated festival costs. He began this year’s festival charging an entry fee for patrons not from one of the four peninsula towns. Spear scheduled the 1:20 p.m. Nov. 30 meeting with Maddocks aNd Bryer to discuss the fee and dispel “conflicting statements” regarding the proposal. Spear also requested Maddocks invite other concerned business owners. 

    Spear reported Maddocks had four questions. The first was if there was a fee; Spear responded “yes.” The second was how much? He responded $2 for an adult day ticket and $5 for a season pass. The third question asked if “locals” were free. Spear answered there was no charge for Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, Edgecomb and Southport residents. The fourth was how the festival handled someone who had a problem with paying a fee. 

    In an email, Spear told the Boothbay Register how he responded to that question. “Some people want to check out what the trucks have before committing. We just tell them to go on in, and if they like what they see, find us on their way out,” he wrote. “Pretty much the same for people who want to take photos. We let them know about the tickets, and if they just want to snap a few photos, we ask them to find us if they thought it was worthwhile.”

    On Dec. 2, Spear decided against charging a fee based on responses from those who attended the meeting. Spear reported, so far, his patrons are enjoying the festival, but complaints from locals resulted in the policy change.“Enough businesses and people complained that we decided to take it off the plate, and try to fix it,” he said.

    The new admission policy will have a donation bucket at the gate, along with greeters.