Farm museum to study change in vendor fees; Under the proposal, officials would charge flat rate for booths at events


Carroll County Farm Museum officials agreed yesterday to explore a proposal that would change the fees that festival vendors must pay to sell their wares at the popular tourist attraction, saving many businesses money.

Under the proposal, vendors would pay a flat fee to reserve a sales booth at farm museum events. Nonprofit organizations are required to give the Westminster museum 10 percent of the money they raise. All other vendors must give 15 percent.

"I've talked with several vendors, and I think they would favor a flat fee," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, who suggested the change during yesterday's Farm Museum Advisory Board meeting. Gouge is the commissioners' liaison to the advisory board and serves on the board's executive committee.

"I've heard some grumbling about the percentage system," Gouge said. "It takes you a lot of money and hard work to set up a booth, and if you have a bad day, you're really giving away your profit."

Several members of the advisory board said other festivals in the county charge a flat fee, and vendors appear happy with that system. The fees vary from $25 to $45, depending on the festival and the size of the booth.

"Most of the craft fairs are flat-fee," said board member Bob Morris. "The ones that are not are losing money. I think we should look at changing practices."

Dottie Freeman, museum manager, said: "It would certainly make things easier for the farm museum," which must collect money from vendors after each festival. Under the proposed system, all fees would be paid up-front.

A flat-fee structure would cause a drop in the museum's revenue, which is, on average, about $300,000 a year. But a loss of money did not seem to discourage Gouge or the advisory board from exploring the proposal.

"This farm museum belongs to the county, it belongs to the citizens," said Gouge. "Money should not be the main objective of the museum. The main objective should be to teach people about the history of this county, about what was once in this county."

The advisory board's fund-raising committee has been charged with polling vendors to see which fee structure they would prefer, and is expected to mail questionnaires this month.

If adopted, the change would most likely affect vendors at North Bay Deer Creek Fiddlers Convention, the July Fourth celebration and Fall Harvest Days, Freeman said. The change would not affect vendors at Maryland Wine Festival, she added.

The change could affect the fee structure for this year's festivals, but the likelihood of that happening appears to be slim. Contracts for 1999 events were mailed last month, and several have been returned, Freeman said.

Any changes would have to be approved by the advisory board and adopted by the Carroll County Board of Commissioners.

Pub Date: 1/12/99

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