MT file photo Spam Queen and event co-founder Charlotte Boehm waves to the parade crowd during the 2004 SPAM Festival in Shady Cove.

Expiration date arrives for SPAM fest

If you've been saving your potted meat containers for a chance at fame and fortune during the town's annual SPAM Festival and parade, you may as well toss those cans in the recycle bin. This year there's no joy in SPAM-ville. The annual festival is canceled.

"Over the years, as you know, we picked up the funding for the event," said Ron Boehm, owner of the Two Pines Restaurant and co-founder with wife Charlotte of the town's wackiest celebration.

"After nine years, we think it's time for someone else to take it over."

Boehm asked city officials if they were interested.

"We looked at it carefully," said City Administrator Elise Smurzynski, "but we were told that it cost $40,000 to put on the event. The city just doesn't have the physical or fiscal resources to be able to do that."

Boehm said he keeps trying.

"I've been talking with some of the restaurant managers and local business owners and telling them if they want a SPAM festival we'll work with them," said Boehm, "but they're going to have to put someone in charge who will step up and accept the responsibility. We're looking for a step-up person."

The Hormel Meat Co., maker of SPAM, gave the Shady Cove's celebration its blessing in 1999, and since then, the city event became one of only four official SPAM festivals held anywhere in the world. Last year it was held the fourth weekend in August.

Austin, Texas, also has canceled its 30-year festival this year, but the others, in Waikiki, Hawaii and Austin, Minn., are so far still on schedule.

The Boehms came up with the idea of the SPAM Festival and parade during the 1999 Y2K scare.

People were talking about the end of the world, rationing and stocking up on food.

Charlotte Boehm said they wanted to do something fun that would take the scare out of the new millennium. When they agreed that America's No. 1 survival ration was SPAM, the festival took on a life of its own. On one Saturday each year, the town changed its name to Spamville, U.S.A.

"It's such a shame," said Alma Spicer, who helped organize the celebration from the beginning.

"These kind of special events are so helpful for the local business community. The recent River ArtWalk was the most successful we've ever had with attendance near 3,500 people, and some owners tell me their profits were up as much as 33 percent."

She said she receives a number of queries each year, asking what there is to do around Shady Cove, and some visitors keep coming back.

"Every August, eighteen people come up from Southern California for the ArtWalk and stay through the SPAM Festival," she said. "This year they wanted to put a float into the parade and I had to tell them there was nothing. No SPAM."

Writer Bill Miller Lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at

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