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Farm City Dinner is Friday; no farm tour this year

MONTESANO — The annual Harvest Celebration Farm Tour has been canceled this year, a victim of recent cuts at Grays Harbor Transit, making the shuttle buses unavailable. However, the annual Farm City Dinner hosted by the Montesano Chamber of Commerce will continue as planned.

The dinner is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 20 with dinner slated for 7 p.m. and a social hour beginning at 6 p.m. before that. Tickets cost $17.50 and guests are encouraged to buy tickets for a family of farmers, as well. The event will be at the Montesano Moose Lodge. Call (360) 249-3111 for tickets.

Organizer Ken Albert said that they have about 50 to 60 people already registered with seating of up to 80 people or more.

The event features a lifetime achievement award, two pioneer awards, a youth in education award and an environmental stewardship award.

“I believe we may be the last community still doing the Farm City dinner,” Albert said. “It’s an opportunity for the community and businesses to thank the farm families and puts them all in one location. It’s about thanking the farm families for all of their efforts helping our communities, even though we don’t see them all the time because they’re working.”

Don Tapio, the Grays Harbor WSU Extension Office agriculture expert, typically organizes a weekend tour of area farms and has utilized shuttle buses offered by Grays Harbor Transit in the past.

Transit Director Mark Carlin says that a re-examination of 2008 federal transit laws made him realize that the Transit service could be putting its federal grant funds in jeopardy. The thought is that government-owned Transit services should not be creating special services to directly compete with a private coach business.

The rules really came down hard on Transit services in the Puget Sound area and shut down special Seahawks and Mariners buses. Carlin said he honestly never thought the rules would impact small town services such as shuttling around residents and tourists in Montesano to look at Christmas lights. However, a recent examination by an expert with the state Department of Transportation led Carlin to believe different.

To be clear, Transit never received an audit finding from the State Auditor.

But Carlin didn’t want to risk it. It may have been possible to continue the Transit shuttles if it were on a regular route, but because Transit also no longer runs on weekends, that alternative also proved a problem.

The ruling also impacts the Festival of Lights, conducted around Christmas time in Montesano.

Tapio said that because of Transit’s decision, they’ve had no choice but to discontinue what would have been the 14th annual farm tour.