By Tom Hubka
Wescom Wire Service
Two annual festivals at the Port of Brookings Harbor may be held somewhere else or not at all after a series of emotional meetings Monday between port commissioners and festival officials over new fees.
Peggy Freeman, chairperson for the Southern Oregon Kite Festival, said she is stepping down because of the "lack of professionalism" displayed Monday by commissioners Sue Gold, Loren Griffith and Exec-utive Director Dave Scott.
"I am appalled at the way I was treated in the meeting," Freeman wrote in a letter ad-dressed to the commission and delivered to the Curry Coastal Pilot.
In an interview, Freeman told the Pilot she believes the kite festival, now in its fifteenth year, may not happen as a result of her decision.
That decision, she said, was motivated by the port commissioners' attitude, not the $400 fee they proposed.
The committee also asked Jo Mochulski, chairperson for the Festival of the Arts, for a $400 fee.
Mochulski said she had a similar experience at her meeting, saying Griffith was "rude" and that the way she was treated was "unacceptable."
"When I left the meeting, my first thoughts were, Â‘It is time to cancel the Festival of the Arts or move it elsewhere,'" Mochulski said.
Both options are currently being discussed by festival officials.
When contacted by the Pilot, Griffith said he had no comment.
Gold told the Pilot she hoped the meetings would have been calmer and that the committee tried to treat each festival fairly.
"Some of the commissioners can get a little excited," she said. "I really would like the kite festival to happen, but (the state of Oregon) has told us we need to run the port like a business."
Scott echoed Gold's message, saying the state, the port's main creditor of its multi-million dollar debt, has encouraged port officials to operate like a business.
"The port does not want to get rid of any festival," he said.
Officials' conduct may have been due to the "dire financial straits" they find themselves in, Scott said.
"It may seem harsh," he said. "But on the same token, everyone is trying to find a solution to satisfy all the needs and keep the people coming to the port."
Roger Thompson, who is also involved in the kite festival, said he is hopeful the event will still happen.
"I would say we've got to kick back and see who has the time and effort to take it from all the turmoil caused by the port commission," he said.