Sequim City Hall puts itself in middle of lavender feud; wants weekend coordination for visitors

SEQUIM — City officials have asked two competing lavender associations to meet a list of requirements for permits and lodging tax revenues — and to keep their differences to themselves — in support of the 16th Sequim Lavender Festival in July.

The Sequim Lavender Farmers Association, which broke away from the existing Sequim Lavender Growers Association a year ago, has agreed to the city requirements recently sent to them in a memo from Barbara Hanna, city communications and marketing director.

Hanna on Friday said the city was still waiting to hear from the growers association.

She said she was surprised when the Sequim Lavender Growers Association launched its website, sequimlavenderfestivalweekend.com, last Monday with the heading “Sequim Lavender Festival Weekend” as a trademark.

The city wants both groups to use the term “Sequim Lavender Weekend” as an umbrella term for all lavender events July 20-23, and she had discussed this with the growers group, she said.

Sequim’s lavender weekend is a traditional event that features vendors and visits to area lavender farms.

Last year was the first time that two groups put on separate events.

The city is updating festival contracts now.

“We hope to get the contracts all on the same page,” Hanna said. “I’m hoping to meet with both groups the week Steve [Burkett, city manager] gets back from vacation Feb. 13.”

In her memo to the two associations earlier this month, Hanna said, “We observed problems last year,” the first year that Sequim hosted events offered by the two lavender associations.

“Permits this year will require coordination of messages to give visitors a better experience,” she said in her memo.

Among those problems were conflicts between the two groups, lack of communication, bus transportation problems with tourists and inadequate signage directing visitors, Hanna said.

“The biggest confusion was the farms and which are free and which ones are not,” Hanna said. “The main issue is truly communicating to the visitors what is going on.”

She said information about multiple lavender events must be improved and coordinated to help visitors.

She said it was “critical that neither association provide incorrect or misleading information to any members of the public regarding any of the weekend events.”

“Both organizations need to cease from spreading disparaging information about the other group within the community,” she said. “This only creates doubt about the success and future of the lavender industry in Sequim and may lessen visitors’ desires to return.”

Mayor Ken Hays, who supports the city’s attempts to iron out issues between the two associations and the city, said he was disappointed the lavender groups were not working together more for the good of the community.

“We don’t want there to be conflict,” Hays said. “We want the two organizations to get along because we as the city feel the lavender festival is important to the city.

“I have to say I find it a real concern for the city of Sequim — that for the greater good, it’s better that they get along.”

Contacted on Friday, Paul Jendrucko, media representative for the Sequim Lavender Growers Association, said the group has met with the city and “has not closed the door on this discussion and is emphatic that the SLGA has a long-standing relationship with planning and hosting the No. 1 lavender festival in North America.

“That relationship will not change,” Jendrucko said. “We’re following professional courtesy with the city and guarding privacy while considering the offer and negotiations.”

Scott Nagel, Sequim Lavender Farmers Association executive director, said the group immediately met after receiving Hanna’s memo and wholeheartedly supported it.

“We have got to present a unified face to the visitors of this town,” said Nagel, who served as director of the growers group before joining the farmers group.

“Over $3 million is at stake if we blow the weekend for tourists in this town,” he added. “It’s a boon to tourists if both groups cooperate.”

Hanna, in her memo to the two lavender associations said, “It’s all about the visitors! As you plan your lavender events, please observe this universal principle.”

The idea is to make visitors happy so that they return, she said.

“Without happy visitors, everybody loses — the community, the city and all of the individual businesses that have worked so very hard for many years to make Sequim the premier lavender destination that it is and to make these weekend events so successful year after year,” she said.

Meeting the city’s criteria, she said, “will be incorporated into the contract terms for receipt of any lodging tax monies in support of the lavender events and will be added to the festival permits.”

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at [email protected]

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