Danny Reber has a lot on his plate. As executive director of the Scotts Valley Chamber of Commerce, Reber oversees a variety of annual events and fundraisers for the Chamber, and is an omnipresent force in the community.
He now has his next task at hand: organizing the upcoming Scotts Valley Art, Wine and Beer Festival on Aug. 21 -22.
The event is typically held at Skypark, but the fields at that park were badly damaged while being used as a staging area during the CZU Lightning Complex fire.
The 2021 event will be held at Siltanen Park in north Scotts Valley, and with 150-200 volunteers working in tandem, Reber says there’s plenty to be done.
“We have 20 different subcommittees for the festival, and they are putting together every element of it from food to wine to entertainment to the car show,” he said. “The committee is really excited this year; nobody has been able to enjoy their community in the past year, so we’re looking forward to our first ‘Coming Out of Covid Community Celebration’ where people can enjoy themselves and visit with their neighbors. We’re hoping residents are looking forward to this family-friendly festival as well.”
Covid-19 has turned festival deadlines into moving targets, Reber says, but the Chamber recently received the green light from Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel to move forward, and now it’s crunch time.
“We normally spend about eight months putting an event like this together, and we’re doing it in less than five,” he said. “We’re going to need different health permits for the festival, and we’re working with the county to determine what that looks like. We’re expecting masks and social distancing to be part of the festival, and we’re going to alter the layout to allow for greater space between vendors, but those exact guidelines are pending.”
Over 150 artisans in a variety of mediums have been invited to attend, and organizers have locked in musical acts such as the Joint Chiefs, Lyin’ Eyes (Eagles Tribute Band) and James Durbin & the Lost Boys.
The “Cops and Rodders” Car Show is a staple of the event, but vehicles aren’t allowed on the grass at Siltanen Park, so Reber is working with the city to potentially close the street in front of the park in order to showcase the cars.
“We really had it dialed in at Skypark,” he said, “so we’re having to think outside the box.”
Reber says the organization was hit hard with the cancellation of the 2020 event, and he and his cohorts are now scrambling to assemble the 2021 version of the festival.
“Proceeds from the Art, Wine and Beer Festival is about 30-40% of the Chamber’s operating budget, so we’ve gotten by with our reserves over the past year,” he said. “We’re looking forward to getting back to normal with this year’s festival.”
Reber says most people don’t realize that the Chamber is its own nonprofit.
“We work with the city and other organizations, but we are our own entity, so we make our ends meet with association dues and the festival,” he said. “If you take away the festival, and the impact that Covid had on local businesses, 2020 was a challenge.”
Reber says there are about 300 member businesses at any given time, and during the pandemic, the Chamber extended its assistance to all Scotts Valley businesses, regardless of whether they were members. That goes for finding resources as well.
“Last year was figuring out the movement between tiers, and how that affected local businesses,” he said. “Now, we’re working with local businesses to help them find funding through grants, [the Paycheck Protection Program] or other sources.”
One of the great things that came out of the pandemic, Reber says, is the development of the Scotts Valley Economic Recovery Task Force, a coalition of local leaders including the city’s mayor and vice mayor and business owners. The group now meets twice a month to discuss the obstacles the pandemic has thrown in front of businesses, and create solutions so that they can overcome them. They have provided masks and signage for businesses, held marketing webinars and created a series of local shopping days to increase their revenue.
“While other cities were arguing with their officials about doing what they wanted to do, we were already in communication with our city leaders, so that obstacle was totally removed,” he said. “It’s been really beneficial for everyone involved …. In the midst of everything, we were able to pull off a virtual Awards Gala as well. With Covid and the fire and evacuations, we decided that the Gala was something that the community really needed this year.”
Reber says he’s really proud of his community for stepping up and coming together despite the hardships of the past year—and now, he’s looking ahead to August.
This year’s Festival Chairperson, Jeanette Larkin, is also the Chamber Board president for 2021, and Reber says she’s throwing everything she’s got into making this event successful. Reber gave her and all the volunteers full credit for putting so many moving parts together.
“We’re really grateful for everyone’s help and efforts,” he said.
As for groups such as the Alzheimer’s Association and Valley Churches United, Reber acknowledges those area nonprofits who make a difference in the community, and welcomes them to have a booth at the festival free of charge.
Reber is a little concerned about the kids’ area. Thanks to Covid, bounce houses are probably not happening this year, so he’s focusing on a more interactive series of events for the little ones: think puppet shows and petting zoos.
“Since we are a volunteer organization, we welcome anyone to share their thoughts with us,” he said. “There will be challenges, but we’re going to make it work.”
For more information on the festival, visit svartfestival.com.