Downtown Business Goes After Hempfest Hippies

And the Hippies Win—Again

Downtown Business Goes After Hempfest Hippies


HEMPFEST Not smoked out.

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Breaking news, everyone: It turns out that downtown business groups and pot-smoking hippies don't always get along. The powerful Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) sent a letter asking the city to deny Hempfest's permit this year—it is scheduled for the third weekend in August—saying the pot festival, which boasts hundreds of thousands of attendees, has outgrown Myrtle Edwards Park.

"The noise, trash, and traffic congestion resulting from an event of this size—over three days—has a direct negative impact on the thousands of residents who live within a 1⁄2 mile radius," says the March 29 letter, part of a bulleted list of concerns cosigned by the Belltown Business Association and Uptown Alliance. Unfortunately, the groups continue, their concerns about Hempfest (it is too large, lasts too long, and is messy and unpleasant for neighboring residents and businesses) outweigh any of the festival's benefits to the neighborhood.

Hempfest must move out of the waterfront park, the groups say, unless it meets three conditions: (1) Hempfest's attendance is limited, (2) it is truncated to one day—as opposed to the three days it ran last year—and (3) the city improves traffic control, police patrols, parking enforcement, and trash pickup in the park and a half-mile radius beyond it.

Just a couple reasonable little suggestions! Cut your attendance, slash the event's time span by two-thirds, and get the city to kick in more money to mitigate its impact.

Why are they suddenly taking issue with the pot gathering, which has been held in Myrtle Edwards Park since 1995? DSA spokesman James Sido says his group sent the letter after Hempfest came to them directly, asking for neighborhood feedback.

That's some feedback.

In a letter obtained by the city, Hempfest director Vivian McPeak shot back a response last month addressing the DSA's critiques point by point, in most areas strenuously disagreeing with their arguments. Where the DSA claims "customer access to waterfront businesses is virtually halted... at the heart of the critical tourist season," McPeak says Hempfest's own research shows the fest is a "positive opportunity" for waterfront business, and he points out that many Hempfest attendees come from out of town, bringing spending money with them. DSA says attendees leave trash for "multiple blocks in every direction"; McPeak says volunteers spend days picking up trash and debris from the area.

McPeak, who didn't return calls for comment, also writes that they've already "examined all park venues and the Seattle Center repeatedly in past years," as recently as last year, and they're sure that Myrtle Edwards and its surrounding park areas—Centennial Park and the Olympic Sculpture Park—are the right (and only) place for their event.

Reached by phone, Sido insisted the "sole focus" of his association's letter "was to give [Hempfest] any kind of feedback or constructive criticism that we could," and maintained "it has nothing to do with the nature of the event; it's certainly not a condemnation of Hempfest." It's just about "logistics."

When I told him the letter sounds like a bit more than "constructive criticism," he said there's "a chance that it could come off as more critical than intended."

To boil it down: Hempfest asked the neighborhood for feedback, DSA's feedback was "Don't hold it here," and Hempfest countered that there's nowhere else to hold it and they're going to keep having it there, thank you very much.

The city, perhaps having learned its lesson in past years (it has often tried to stomp on Hempfest, and it never wins), is siding with the potheads. James Keblas, the director of the city's Office of Film & Music, and the man to whom the DSA's letter was addressed, tells The Stranger by e-mail that as long as Hempfest fulfills permit requirements, "it is the City's intention to issue a permit for Hempfest this year by June 1," a permit that will include "a cover letter from the City that address[es] concerns from all parties." recommended


Comments (18) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Send the DSA some brownies to enjoy at their next meeting. They surely need to mellow out.
Posted by pyunghwa33 on May 8, 2013 at 10:20 AM · Report this
I thought it was very well organized last year.
Sure the sidewalks for a good 1/2 mile are affected by it's presence but then again, it's more visibility that those businesses get in one weekend than they do normally (don't have numbers won't pretend to know anything about it).
The part about limiting the time used, well that's just full B.S. it's no more disruptive for one day that it is for 3.

Then again, since this is supposed to be a non-smoking event, why can't it be held at a convention center? Give someone else the money to host you, easier to clean up after, usually easier parking, the benefits go on and on, after all we're talking about a park that wasn't designed to host events that size as far as I know. Don't worry about the food trucks there are plenty of locations for them to cook and serve food in most convention centers anyways.
Posted by ConflictManagement on May 8, 2013 at 10:34 AM · Report this
I live within a half mile of this event space and I have no issues whatsoever with this festival. Sounds like some local prudes taking advantage trying to get rid of the event altogether.
Posted by woofy on May 8, 2013 at 12:58 PM · Report this
Well, they didn't ask the Edgewater hotel. I spend over $2000 every year there just in room rental simply because of hemp Fest.
Posted by Master the Obvious on May 8, 2013 at 3:23 PM · Report this
Cant wait to attend my first Hempfest this year :)
Posted by jfdslak; on May 8, 2013 at 4:37 PM · Report this
inquiastador 6
I really do not see any reason it cannot be a one day thing now. It is at it's core a party for potheads.
Posted by inquiastador on May 8, 2013 at 8:20 PM · Report this
Hey, gang! I got a swell idea!

Do not shop at these stores during Hempfest:

Belltown Business Association:…

Send Email to these nice board of directors:…

Also the Uptown Alliance:…

I guess they do not like dirty, filthy, hippie money.

Posted by DirtyHippiesNotAllowed on May 9, 2013 at 12:51 AM · Report this
kellyllek 8
it can't be a one day thing because they don't feel like it. if you don't like that, don't attend three days of it, otherwise it's just an opinion.
Posted by kellyllek on May 9, 2013 at 11:08 AM · Report this
I picture hempfest being run by yuppies not hippies. Fuck them for not supporting legalizing herb.
Posted by S T on May 9, 2013 at 11:27 AM · Report this
inquiastador 10
Much like #8 is just an opinion.
Posted by inquiastador on May 9, 2013 at 6:53 PM · Report this
The Downtown NIMBY Nazi ASSholeseeatesome is too big,been around too damn long,and needs to be intimidated all the way to the damn Eastside!!! --- (the biggest gangsters downtown wear three-piece Kapitalist-Pig uniforms and have offices hundreds of feet above the cONcrete and ASSfault!!!
Posted by 5th Columnist on May 9, 2013 at 7:04 PM · Report this
So tell me, 5th Columnist, how many windows did you bust out on May 1st? And, when are you moving to the commune? Oh? You're not? Love those trendy shoes you're wearing, where were they made?

Listen, 5th Columnist, you're a pathetic DOUCHE BAG.
Posted by Chuck Mudede on May 10, 2013 at 9:30 AM · Report this
Come on, Chucky, you're the socialist hipster. Where's the love?
Posted by Unbrainwashed on May 10, 2013 at 5:38 PM · Report this
auntie.ir0ny 14
For 11 years, I lived one block behind First and Denny. The Hempfest attendees were more polite and considerate of my neighborhood and living space than any group of Sonics fans, ever.
Posted by auntie.ir0ny on May 12, 2013 at 1:22 PM · Report this
We live four blocks from the entrance to Hempfest. Our observations are that the leadership, workers and attendees are uniformly friendly and respectful. Traffic is no worse than it is during any of the large Seattle Center Festal events. And the park returns to its pristine, bucolic self within a day or two after the event wraps. I wish all city events were as well managed, respectful and enjoyable to those of us who share our neighborhood with the public. Thank you.
Posted by Pfranckly on May 12, 2013 at 9:59 PM · Report this
What the hell is wrong with Seattle? They have all sorts of NIMBY douchebags that want to play this "We're so diverse and accepting of other people, until it's something we don't like, then we don't want them here, even if it doesn't affect us, or even if it does benefit businesses..." Get your snobbish noses out of the air, or out of each others' asses!
Posted by cattycat on May 12, 2013 at 11:24 PM · Report this
Texas10R 17
Hempfest in Seattle is, and always has been, an intrinsically mellow affair. Of the four events I have attended, event organizers & volunteers, vendors, cops, locals, tourists, and tokers have peacefully co-existed in a way that should be the MODEL of public events, rather than the scorn of a small group of people [Downtown Seattle Association] intent on flexing more political muscle than they actually have.
Posted by Texas10R on May 13, 2013 at 7:39 AM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 18
I've never had an issue with Hempfest and I work downtown. Seafair on the other hand is a god damn fucking cluster fuck that should simply be stopped
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on May 13, 2013 at 7:42 AM · Report this

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