By Michael Pitts-Campbell, Southern Oregon Kite Festival committee member, Brookings

(Although a member of the Southern Oregon Kite Festival Committee, this public forum represents my personal opinion, not necessarily that of the entire committee.)

Should the Southern Oregon Kite Festival leave Brookings?

The automatic response is: Of course not!

The SOKF started in Brookings and has been here for 25 years. It brings tremendous benefits to Brookings, creating a festival weekend that produces the largest retail sales of the summer for many businesses.

The SOKF fills the motels and restaurants, brings revenue to the city of Brookings and puts thousands of visitors in front of the shops at the port. The benefits from those visitors are not limited to just the businesses directly receiving them, but are spread through the entire community through salaries paid, and then spent at other local businesses.

However, the best supporters of the SOKF are, by and large, those businesses that have the least direct benefit from the festival, and it’s largely the same businesses shouldering the load every year.

When we ask, we almost always receive support from medical offices, most auto repair facilities, insurance agencies, certain restaurants, a majority of the banks and small business owners who believe in giving something back to the community that supports them.

The non-supporters are, by and large, the festival’s largest beneficiaries. Fred Meyer can only peripherally support the SOKF, while Bi-Mart, the dollar stores, O’Reilly’s, Mini Pet Mart and Rite Aid seem content to extract money from our area but not contribute to it. Even most real estate agencies, motels, restaurants and shops at the port do not support the SOKF, despite the festival bringing thousands of people into the area each summer.

The city of Brookings ceased to financially support the festival at least seven years ago — its contributions through the Tourism Promotion Activity Committee supposedly being devoted only to new, shoulder-season or winter events that will bring tourists into town. The Brookings City Council apparently feels that supporting an annual event that has benefited the city for decades is not beneficial.

The lack of support could probably be overcome by the committee members with effort beyond what they currently give, and relying more frequently on the same sponsors, but without the support of the Port of Brookings-Harbor, that effort is pointless.

Until 2017, the port had always treated the festival as a community asset, despite the port having been in financial difficulty for more than a decade. A year ago, however, the port decided that the festival was a cash cow to be milked — the initial proposal from the port’s manager was that the festival be charged a fee 2,000 percent higher than anything in the past. That was (eventually) negotiated down to 240 percent for use of the Kite Field, and the port would no longer offer any assistance, requiring the festival to purchase picnic tables and trash cans and supply a stage.

The SOKF is nonprofit corporation and every year depends on the efforts of nearly 100 volunteers (including the committee) and the financial support of the community to produce the festival. It requires about $60,000 cash and in-kind support to bring, house and feed the fliers, produce 3,000 copies of the program and purchase shirts.

If that financial support is lacking, all the efforts of volunteers cannot save the festival. Support does not need to be limited to only when a committee member asks for a sponsorship. If you are willing to devote 100 or more hours for a year and think you have ideas to improve the festival, the SOKF committee is always glad to consider new members.

Applications, as well as sponsorships or donations, can be mailed at any time to SOKF, P.O. Box 7314, Brookings, OR 97415.

Sponsorships or donations over $25 will be acknowledged in the next program, as well as with appropriate tax documents.

When you look at a festival program, notice which businesses support the festival and which ones don’t. To those who don’t, ask “why?”

With all the lack of support, perhaps it is time for the Southern Oregon Kite Festival to consider becoming the Northern California Kite Festival.