Spirits were high (pun intended), at the Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce Crab, Seafood & Wine Festival held at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds the last weekend in April.
Without benefit of hard and fast numbers, by press time we heard the event appeared to be a great success. Chamber representatives and vendors were pleased, and campgrounds and lodgings were filled. If the Astoria Rotary Club can be considered a barometer for the event, sales at its annual crab dinner booth were up around 20 percent over last year.
The crab festival, as well as other well-organized events held around the region, draws thousands of people to the area. In addition to funds raised at the event by the Astoria-Warrenton chamber for its annual operations, many other area non-profits earn a pretty penny at these types of events, too, as volunteers hawk their seafood delicacies or wares to the 20,000 plus people in attendance.
If the final dollars raised by the chamber are in concert with the Astoria Rotary's experience, the crab festival will have had an up year overall.
Pegging the success of a regional event to the broader economy might give one cause to accuse me of taking an overly simplistic approach. But at its very basic level, it appears there were more people willing to part with a buck at the event this year than there were last year.
While Crab Festival results are not a fail-safe litmus test, coupled with other evidence such as national economic indicators trending upward slightly, I tend to lean to the side of optimism.
Obviously there are still some critical areas of our economy that need shoring up - construction and real estate sales come to mind. It is our hope that the USDA's rural lending program will find new traction, allowing more home loans to buyers in our areas. (See a related article on page 1).
The commercial property lending environment is also hugely problematic. Recent pressure put on banks by the FDIC to reduce their asset bases of non-owner occupied commercial property appears to be bringing that real estate sector to its knees. A bevy of local developers has been affected by the FDIC's change of direction, and more commercial property foreclosures are likely without intervention at the federal level.
For the moment let's hope the rising tide of optimism evidenced by the crab festival spills over to other areas of the economy. Because one crab dinner purchased, one hotel bed filled, one dinner in our downtowns
all have beneficial trickle down effects.