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Scappoose festival organizers say fewer sponsors, volunteers spurred vote to call it quits

Photo Credit: FILE - From left, volunteers Carol Schuler, Neta Barbour, Martha Stokes and Brian Rosenthal dish up plates of the famous Scappoose Sauerkraut Sandwich at last year's Scappoose Sauerkraut Festival.After 25 years of tradition in Scappoose, organizers say this year’s Sauerkraut Festival will be the last.

The Scappoose Community Club voted in May not to continue the festival, after sponsorship dollars and volunteers dwindled over the last five years.

Each year, the Scappoose Sauerkraut Festival draws between 8,000 and 10,000 people to the area, Beth Pulito, Community Club member and the festival’s main coordinator, said.

While attendance hasn’t dropped, resources have.

“In 2009, we had a huge cut in sponsorship dollars from two of our major sponsors,” Pulito said Monday. “They couldn’t justify the high expenditure of sponsorship dollars when they were cutting jobs.”

Pulito said the two major sponsors each gave $1,000 over the next couple of years, but cut support to the event altogether in 2011.

Around the same time, the Community Club was losing support from volunteers, Pulito explained.

She got involved with the festival in 2005 as a vendor and took over as coordinator in 2008. She recently relocated to St. Helens and had planned on stepping down from her role as coordinator before the decision was made to discontinue the festival.

She credits several other volunteers with making the festival and its signature sauerkraut sandwich booth possible each year.

She said the event costs about $8,000 to host. It’s one of a few annual activities the Scappoose Community Club puts on. The club is also responsible for the Scappoose Farmers Market, the Watts House Christmas Lighting and the Spring Clean-Up day.

The Sauerkraut Festival started 25 years ago, with Evelyn Hudson and Jim Carpenter at the helm. At the time, Scappoose was home to Steinfeld’s, a sauerkraut plant owned and operated by Ray and June Steinfeld. The plant was eventually bought out by corporations before it closed in the early 2000s, but the festival carried on, offering up food booths, vendors, live music, contests and other activities each year.

This year will be no different, but club members say the festival has run its course. The club has no plans to host any other sauerkraut fests in the foreseeable future.

Polito is not entirely ruling out the idea of a revival, however. She pointed out that in 2001, organizers called it quits on the event, but it was spared with the help of dedicated club volunteers who didn’t want to see it go.

“If people could come to the club and say ‘I want to be a member. I don’t want to see this go away,’ it might possibly happen,” she said.

Pulito said the club hopes to be able to continue its sauerkraut sandwich booth at other local events.

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