North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Strawberry Festival board member responds to Letters to the Editor


I read the editorials contained in the North County Outlook regarding the article published March 10 in The Marysville Globe regarding the Marysville Strawberry Festival. On behalf of the board, the volunteers and the community at large, I would like to clarify some of the points made and provide a different perspective on the issues raised.

I have read the allegations and am somewhat surprised by them, given that these individuals were invited to apply to the board and interview for the positions they were interested in. They chose not to interview. It is true that we let a few members go. I won’t go into the many reasons why as there’s no need to besmirch someone’s reputation, especially since they are still valued members of this community. Suffice it to say that we followed our policies related to these issues and record shows they chose not to appear before the organization to explain or dispute them, despite the multiple opportunities afforded them.

Equally, I am not going to get into any “he said, she said” name calling here. I understand all too well that change can be difficult. Some of the individuals that are part of this self-named “Secret Society” know that we have their resignations on file in the festival office and none of the reasons given were ever part of the “said violations” - they are available if they would like to refresh their memory.

As for our meetings. They are typically open to the public. On the date mentioned, the “Secret Society” had 16 + of their friends/members present. So I am somewhat perplexed as to this allegation. However, we are also not aware of any law or rules that require the public to be in attendance at a nonprofit’s board meeting or an election of officers. This courtesy is afforded at the discretion of the board. I also wish to clarify the issue of a “member for life” mentioned in the article. This simply means that someone doesn’t have to pay annual dues anymore. Ms. Deckard was granted this status because of her years of service to the organization and community, this alleviates the yearly membership fees but all the other rules and regulations still apply. I was personally surprised by her letter to The Herald as no one had seen or heard from her on an official level for nearly 10 years. Again, anyone is free to stop by the festival office and review our bylaws and minutes.

These bylaws also state that only dues paying members in good standing may participate in elections. In looking for members and board members, the organization felt it was important to interview them this year to inquire if they had some management or nonprofit experience and they understood the time commitment, along with their level of interest and skill sets. As you well know, the days of running a nonprofit by the seat of your pants are gone. The world has changed and there are both legal and community expectations that an organization will be run like a business, not a social club or a place to be used for personal gain.

We currently have a roster of officers and a board that is dedicated to ensuring that the Marysville Strawberry Festival continues to be a stellar community festival, regardless of the naysayers or those with hurt feelings who felt slighted because they somehow did not get their way. We have filed our required paperwork with the state and federal governments, have paid relevant taxes and continue to hold status as a nonprofit organization in good standing with the Secretary of State’s office. True, there are some vacancies on the board and we welcome anyone in the community to volunteer their time and talent to help us continue to improve the festival.

I am completely confident that the Marysville Strawberry Festival is in very good hands. We have a small band of volunteers who are working hard day and night to improve it. This includes adding new entries to the parade that are new and exciting, and improving the Marketplace, adding new stage entertainment and activities so that it becomes one of the “don’t miss” attractions at the festival.

I certainly understand that change is never easy. Feelings get hurt. Some long for the good old days when running a festival had the full support of all the businesses and community leaders and money came in by the fistful. But Marysville is changing. New people are coming to town and many don’t have that same sense of community that many here grew up with. Further, the festival must compete with tons of new entertainment options for families, from other community celebrations around the Puget Sound to on-demand movies and video games. Getting a kid to even look up from their smartphone has become a monumental chore, let alone getting everyone to support a local festival with their time, attention or money.

Personally, I have been at the event and festival game for more than 25 years. I have learned that people put their hearts and souls into these events. At times, feelings get hurt. People get disappointed. But I know that every member of the board is committed to making this festival one of the most popular in the state, a destination-level event. As a team we have worked hard to put the time and effort into making this festival successful, not only from an entertainment standpoint, but a financial one. We have already made progress, creating one of the best pageants in years, some huge fireworks that was nothing short of spectacular and a financial standing that puts us on a solid footing for the best in years.

Myself, and every member of the board, will be happy to answer your questions truthfully and fully. We have nothing to hide. We simply want to put on an amazing festival in this community, one that instills pride in young and old, which reflects the values of our residents, the personality of our town, and with any luck, lets us enjoy good times with friends and neighbors, putting aside our differences and instead celebrating what we have in common.

Really, hasn’t our festival been through enough? Does all the name calling and finger pointing really accomplish anything? Instead, let’s put our collective energy into this year’s festival, which is coming up quickly. All we need are a few more volunteers who dream big, have some time to commit and who care as deeply about Marysville as our board does.


Mark Jensen

Maryfest Member


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