PIEDMONT -- The city's Recreation Commission is recommending that a professional event planner be hired to run the annual Harvest Festival in September, which has grown in size and scope since it began 16 years ago.

The panel voted unanimously at its March 19 meeting to hire Lisa Bullwinkle, who has managed the Solano Stroll and other community fairs, to be paid $4,500 for her services. The recommendation would have to be approved by the City Council.

"Lisa has an eye for this type of event," interim Recreation Director Penny Robb said.

"Work for the staff and volunteers has increased a great deal with the addition of more components."

Organizer and former Mayor Susan Hill reviewed suggestions for the event. Food vendors would rent space to offer local organic foods and would replace the volunteer-staffed food booths. Hill said about $4,500 has typically been spent on food for the festival, so with the new plan, the festival could either break even or make a little money for the following year.

"It gets really crowded, especially with long lines at the food stations," Commissioner Kim Hebert said. "We could use the youth volunteers to work at the carnival and not have to hand out burgers. The event is a lot of work."

The carnival would be moved to Sierra Avenue and Guilford Road near Piedmont Park, with residents notified of street closures. This would create more places for attendees to sit. Last year's event drew more than 1,000 people, Hill said.


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In other business: Retiree Sal Crispi, a 30-year track and soccer teacher for the Recreation Department, was honored and recognized for his "relentless work ethic" and commitment to youth for three decades.

Recreation Supervisor Erin Rivera reported that revenue was up 13 percent for Schoolmates registration because of the ease of newly established online registration. Tot and preschool programs are popular, successful and full. The summer brochure of recreation programs is available and offers a variety of classes and activities for sign-ups.

Longtime commissioner Dick Hunt is retiring from the panel and also was recognized for his contributions.

"You are a treasure to the community. You have done it all in spades," Commissioner Terry London said.

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