Snyder's Sandwich: SandwichFest Celebration No Place For Political Puzzle

Mark SnyderGENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE - Mark Snyder

SandwichFest was a HUGE success, and congratulations go to  Beth’s Cape Cod Bakery & Café and Café Chew, this year’s Best Sandwich In Sandwich winners by judge and the public. Vendors along the street all did a brisk business, and human beings and canines alike enjoyed themselves.

The Sandwich Chamber of Commerce was the architect behind the event, which was a perfect showcase not only for the participating restaurants, but also for business and civic organizations that participated. In fact, the event was an excellent advertisement for the Town of Sandwich, as many of the attendees were out-of-towners. 

Which brings us to the only bit of controversy connected to the event: Gerry Nye, a Republican activist and lifelong Sandwich resident, told Snyder’s Sandwich, “The Sandwich Republican Town Committee had been in the SandwichFest for several years. Then last year our check was returned. It was determined by Kate Bavelock, the chamber’s executive director then, that political organizations such as ours should not be permitted to participate in the event. At some point, she managed to get the board of directors to confirm this change in policy by a less than unanimous vote.  I have yet to find a member of the board that is aware of any reversal of the policy implemented last year.”

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Sandwich Democratic Town Committee Chairman Paul Houlihan was wondering why the town’s Republican Party hadn’t participated this year.  The SDTC had a table at SandwichFest. He explained, “Two years ago, we participated at the one on Jarves Street. So did the Republicans, and a number of candidates, and Lyndon LaRouche supporters. Last year, we had other things going on. We didn’t get it together on time.”

Houlihan said he wasn’t aware of last year’s restriction. “We just sent in an application this year and indicated who we were. We were given a set of requirements, including no display of campaign literature, no campaign signs, no candidates for office. We complied with the chamber’s guidelines and gave out generic pieces on the Sandwich Democratic Town Committee. Chamber people even came by our booth, and no one raised any objections. I was curious as to why the GOP wasn’t there.  I can only speak for us—we did everything we could to comply with the policy. I have no problems with any part of the chamber’s policy. There was a bit of a dust-up a couple years ago on Jarves Street. So, I can understand the need for the chamber’s policy.”

Jeff Perry, chairman of the Sandwich Republican Town Committee, explained, “Last year, the chamber had said that their board had made a decision based on an incident the year prior. They sent our check back and told us that no political organizations could participate—Democrats or Republicans. We told them of our displeasure. We moved on. Hearing of no change of policy, we didn’t apply for a table this year. If the policy has changed, we weren’t notified.”

Perry continued, “As chair of the Republican Town Committee, it sounds like they had a change of policy that wasn’t related to us. It doesn’t feel right.  It could be an honest mistake. If they had let us know of the change—since they had returned our check last year—we’d have participated.”

Jay Pateakos, executive director of the Sandwich Chamber of Commerce, told me, “The first I heard of this was at the event, when the Republicans approached me. The Democratic committee had talked to Donna Kutil, the chair of the event, who deals with the vendors. She was told they weren’t going to be political. They weren’t forthcoming with their information. I was told they were accepted as a nonpolitical booth. The behind the scenes came from her. I’m the least political guy around.  I don’t think we should be refusing money. I guess the board didn’t want the politics. There was never a change of policy of my board. Political organizations are still banned. I don’t know what happened. I won’t speculate. I was told they were doing something different.”

Kutil, reached at her company, Scenic Roots, said, “It’s a damn shame that the success of SandwichFest is overshadowed by the Republican Party complaining. It was an absolute oversight. I’m a volunteer, and unfortunately the Democratic Party slipped through. I take full ownership for it. I was the chairman in charge of vendor lineup. They need to realize it was a mistake. Running around complaining like a kid who has a spilled ice cream cone doesn’t help anyone. I’m a business owner and an active volunteer.  I neglected to check thoroughly who they were. I don’t want this to reflect negatively on the chamber or SandwichFest, or my business.

They complain that the poor little Democrats had an advantage? Let’s not detract from the event. Maybe the board will revisit the issue and everyone will be welcome again next year.”

Bottom line—the SandwichFest event was a proud moment for this town. I was so impressed with how smoothly it ran, how much fun everyone had, and also loved the location it was held in. Kudos to Police Chief Peter Wack for closing Water Street for the safety—and fun—of all of the adults, children and dogs that had so much fun. Kudos, too, to Ms. Kutil for all the hard work she put into securing so many interesting vendors. But, for those who like to see balance and fairness, there remains an air of disappointment.

Mark Snyder, a member of the Sandwich Finance Committee, has written more than 1,900 articles in newspapers and magazines, and published three books, and is the CEO of PMPNetwork.com, the Internet’s entertainment superstation. Have a story idea? He can be reached by e-mail at snyderssandwich@aol.com, on Facebook (Snyder’s Stoughton), and on Twitter (MediaMan2009). Write him via snail mail at Box 639, East Sandwich 02537.  

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