Anthony Gomes performed at the Nordic Fest beverage garden in 2016. (Decorah Newspapers photo by Julie Berg-Raymond)
Anthony Gomes performed at the Nordic Fest beverage garden in 2016. (Decorah Newspapers photo by Julie Berg-Raymond)
Nordic Fest Board member Greg Eide said he was encouraged by the Decorah City Council’s response last month to a proposal to move the Fest’s beverage garden from its location off River and Day Spring Lane below the Oneota Food Coop.
Eide, who along with Board member Kory Courtney presented the plan, said talking to the Council was the first logical step toward a change.
“We had to see if the Council was even open to it and they are. They’ve been happy with other events that have happened on Water Street and are open to considering it,” Eide said after last week’s meeting.
Eide said there are a few reasons for moving the beverage garden.
“The cost of the sound stage is a lot and to have a band on that stage is a lot. We’re looking at that to make sure we’re good stewards of the Fest resources and the Fest continues and keeps going. The cost of everything keeps going up and we’re looking at revenues and expenses,” he said.
Eide noted the Council is the “ultimate authority” on where the beverage garden is located. If the Council had said “absolutely not” Eide said the Fest Board would have dropped the idea. But since that was not the case, the Fest Board will continue its investigation to determine whether it’s a plausible idea or not.

Eide said he can understand why some people might have reservations about moving the beverage garden to Water Street. But he said people should know the Fest Board is not considering moving the sound stage that’s been used in the beverage garden in recent years to Water Street.
“It wouldn’t be a stage – probably a canopy – and toned-down entertainment and volume. It would be more in keeping with the other entertainers of the other canopies on Water Street,” Eide said.
He also said because it would not involve a sound stage, having a beverage garden on Water Street would not alter the Fest parade route on Water Street.
The Fest Board members submitted a map to the Council showing the beverage garden in the 500 block of Water Street in front of the Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce office where Nordic Fest headquarters are located, and Vesterheim Museum.
“We wanted to show the Council the space would be defined and the beverage garden would not be free flowing through the Fest area – we understand the need to have a defined space that meets the needs of everybody with good signage,” Eide said.
Because Fest merchandise is sold in the Chamber office, Eide said the additional traffic created by the beverage garden would be “nice a benefit,” but added the location is “not set in stone.”
During last week’s Council meeting, Kate Rattenborg of Decorah said she was adamantly opposed to having a beer garden in a family environment and that Vesterheim is a key point for children and their families.
Vesterheim CEO Chris Johnson told the Council Vesterheim wants to continue to be a vital part of the Fest and a good community partner, but that the museum is concerned with the effect a beverage garden would have on the atmosphere at the museum.

Considering options
The 500 block of Water Street is not the only location being considered, according to Eide. Hours of a beverage garden located on Water Street have yet to be determined.
“There’ a lot of exploring to be done,” he told Decorah Newspapers.
“A lot of things go into it. There is no one driving force. When we pick a spot, we consider what are good things and what to do we need to be concerned about,” he said.
Eide said there is a group of four or five Board members working on the idea.
“We’ll continue to have conversation and report back to the Board. This is the first step into the process. There will be lots of conversation and we’ll continue to talk to people about it,” Eide said.
“We’re aware some people will embrace it and say ‘It’s about time,’ while others will say ‘It’s not what Nordic Fest should be.’ We appreciate the different opinions. We just want to move forward and see what our options are.”