Not least of those feeling the angst created by the unanimous decision of the festival’s board of directors to end the annual event after 29 years are two board members with Tracy ties — C.P. Riddle and Marc Marchini.
Riddle, a Tracy resident who had been a board member for 17 years, including serving as board president, said that Tuesday’s decision to close down the festival, was one of the toughest he has been associated with.
“We looked at all of the factors involved and couldn’t find anything that made it possible to continue,” he said. “It wasn’t a hasty decision by any means.”
Two years of declining attendance — amounting to a 50 percent decrease from 2012 — took a toll, Riddle said. This year’s festival was hit by a late April rainstorm that forced closure of the festival on the first day — Friday — and lowered attendance during the weekend even though the weather improved both days.
“After declining attendance in 2013, we needed a bang-up year this time around and didn’t get it,” he said. “We just didn’t have the resources to continue.”
Both Riddle and Marchini said that increasing annual festival costs for city of Stockton services — police, fire and utilities — helped shape the outcome of the decision to disband.
Marchini, a Union Island asparagus grower, said there was lingering hope that some major sponsor would agree to underwrite the festival, but none appeared.
“The state of the asparagus industry in our area, especially with the increasing impact of imports from Mexico, didn’t provide any prospects for growers and shippers to generate increased support,” said Marchini, who, in addition to being a festival board member for 10 years, is chairman of the California Asparagus Commission.
Marchini and Riddle said the asparagus festival was one of the best projectors of a positive image for Stockton, and its demise is a major loss for that city.
Riddle said there could be an upside of the end of the asparagus festival for Tracy, though.
“With the Tracy Bean Festival becoming a Taste of the Valley, deep-fried asparagus could become one of the tastes,” Riddle said. “And who doesn’t like fried asparagus?”
• Contact Sam Matthews at firstname.lastname@example.org or 830-4234.