Sales of this year’s contentious Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival posters are expected to smash all records, Ponchatoula Kiwanis Club President Randy Tomeny said Friday.
The design, which features a painting of two black children, drew comparisons to racist stereotypes and was condemned by the head of the Greater Tangipahoa NAACP. Others considered the poster a work of art.
Strawberry Festival leaders have decided not to sell or display the posters at the April event, though the Kiwanis Club, which selected the design and handles festival merchandise, will continue to sell the posters, which run $25 to $40.
The initial run of 400 posters has sold out. The Kiwanis Club expects a second printing of 1,000 to arrive from the printer in the coming days, and Tomeny said Friday morning the group had just requested another 1,000.
“We will print posters until the last person has one,” he said.
The total number may rise as high as 5,000 if sales continue, he added.
Posters have fallen in popularity in recent years. A print featuring a fleur-de-lis following the Saints’ 2010 Super Bowl win sold well, as did the 2008 version by artist Bill Hemmerling, who inspired this year’s artist Kalle Siekkinen. But Tomeny said even the most popular designs in the past only moved about 1,500 copies, less than half of what he expects to sell this year.
Tomeny says the controversy over the current design has motivated people to buy, but his group is scrambling to fill orders.
“The demand is very high, and we’re not prepared for it,” he said.
His group has created a Facebook page, facebook.com/strawberryfestivalposter, to inform buyers when new shipments come in and where they can pick up a copy. The Kiwanis Club is also trying to organize a shipping operation by June.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people have signed a change.org petition to “reinstate the 2015 official Strawberry Festival poster.”
When told about the effort, Tomeny emphasized that the festival board has simply decided not to display the design at the event. Doing so may have prompted demonstrations that could make families uncomfortable bringing children to the festival, he said.
Organizers have said the decision came after a meeting with local NAACP leadership. Multiple attempts to reach the NAACP for comment on Friday were unsuccessful.
Radio Woody to hit the airwaves in BR?
The small-business-based conservative Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge is starting its own radio station.
Woody Jenkins, chamber president, said the station will launch in June and will be called 95.1, The Mighty WSGX. Jenkins said the station will be a nonprofit and mix news and talk radio with music.
“It’s going to be community oriented, a lot of news,” Jenkins said. He said he would classify the station as a forum for “putting out the truth” rather than a partisan radio outlet.
The station is estimated to reach about 250,000 people in Baton Rouge and would also cover the proposed city of St. George if incorporation efforts are successful.
The people on-air will mostly be volunteers, and Jenkins said the station will be similar to public radio, airing sponsorships but not commercial advertisements.
WSGX does not have a physical home yet, but Jenkins said he is trying to work with an existing station for space and equipment.
Starting a radio station has been in the back of Jenkins’ mind for years, he said, as he started out in radio before going on to own newspapers.
“It’s fun, it’s very local, and you have a direct connection with the listener,” Jenkins said.
Children’s museum hits another snag
The long-awaited Knock Knock Children’s Museum planned for City-Brooks Community Park has hit another snag after years of slow-downs and problems.
The museum was supposed to have a contractor in place by the end of this month, but BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight said the bidder they wanted to hire pulled out of the running this week.
McKnight said the remaining bids are above the $6 million that has been raised for the building’s construction. She said she will meet with Knock Knock Children’s Museum officials next week to see if there’s any wiggle room in the budget and to chart the next course of action.
“We’ll have a plan mid to late next week about Knock Knock,” she said.
Overall, those leading the effort to build the museum have raised more than $9.4 million to build it and to stock its interior learning zone spaces. Most recently, the museum secured donations totaling $850,000 for a construction-themed building and learning zone.
Advocate staff writers Steve Hardy and Andrea Gallo contributed to this report.