After being canned last year, SPAM Festival is back

Pack up the potted-meat lovers and head for Shady Cove today — the SPAM Festival is back.

The festival and parade went on hiatus last year while event organizers scrambled to find a way to hold the annual event without breaking the bank.

This year's $2,500 shoestring budget means there will be no state highway-closing SPAM parade, nor will there be a SPAM queen. But there still will be plenty of fun, says Christie Eggleston, the event's chairwoman.

The tight budget means the SPAM Festival is going back to its homespun roots. The events will kick off at 10 a.m. with "Dog Daze of Summer," a costumed-pet parade along the side of Highway 62.

A one-day permit to close the highway would cost $2,825, more than this year's total budget.

"We just have to go back to grass roots and start from there," she says.

Local business owners Ron and Charlotte Boehm came up with the idea for a SPAMfest as a way to do something fun after the Y2K scare.

The Hormel Meat Co., maker of SPAM, gave Shady Cove the go-ahead for its festival in 1999, and it has been one of only four officially recognized SPAM events worldwide.

After nine years of underwriting the even, the Boehms asked city officials if they were interested in picking up the tab. The city declined, stating the estimated $40,000 price tag was too steep for the town's coffers.

Eggleston, owner of First Run Video and Cutty's Pizza, was asked to pick up the torch for 2009. She and Mary Gunderlock rallied a crew of four more business owners to form an organizing committee, which relied heavily upon volunteers, Eggleston says.

"The community of Shady Cove has really pulled together to do this," she says.

A late start and a late response from Hormel to double-check on the legalities of the festival almost derailed the event again. Eggleston says she didn't get the corporation's official OK until the third week in July.

"We do not have a SPAM queen this year," she says. "We didn't even know if we were going to have the festival."

The 2009 NASCAR showcar and team will be on hand. All ages are invited to come early and have photos taken with Jason Leffler's race car. The National Guard's race car also will be on display in the festival area, she says, and there will be a kids carnival and live music.

Despite the trimmed-down schedule, there will be a SPAM cook-off. Precooked dishes should arrive by 1:30 p.m. for the 2 p.m. judging. In addition to the requisite hot dogs and snacks, the festival food station will feature teriyaki SPAMburgers, Eggleston says

"They're very good," she says. "It doesn't sound good, but they are."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

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