After months of negotiations with the city, Hempfest organizers still don’t have their permit for the annual event, planned for Aug. 18-19 at Myrtle Edwards Park. The construction of SAM’s nearby sculpture park and last year’s hijinks involving a Toolcat and some beach remodeling slowed the process initially, but the city has since told the art museum it must keep the park open for access by Hempfest revelers.
So why still no permit?
“It’s political,” says John Davis, the event's construction director. “We’ve been going through and figuring out how we’re going to do land and security plans and evacuation plans. We keep submitting. They keep asking questions.”
Davis says organizers anticipate receiving the permit soon. But he admits frustration levels are rising. “We’d like to work with the city and that’s what we’re trying to do. It would be nice if they’d ask all their questions at once so we can answer them at once,” he says. “We’d like to be able to dispel the rumors that [the event] isn’t happening. We have no reason to believe the city won’t give us a permit.”
Still, the clock is ticking on the ability for organizers to plan for and publicize the event. “It’s tough,” Davis says. “There’s no other place to hold it. If the permit isn’t issued, we’ll be in a fight for the survival of the event in which we’ll consider all options.”
Virginia Swanson at the city’s special events committee says they hope to grant the permit by early next week "if not sooner." Swanson says the last detail they're working on is how many vehicles will be allowed in the park. "Load-in and load-out issues," she says.