Twenty-six Maitland Heritage Mall business owners have presented a petition to the city’s council to voice their anger and dissatisfaction over the running of the Taste Festival earlier this year.
The traders now fear that the Aroma Festival on August 18 and 19 will not be profitable.
In the petition to Maitland City Council general manager David Evans, the traders claimed there was little or no marketing of the Taste Festival, and the mall had been poorly decorated and lacked the atmosphere that had been present in previous years.
The business owners said trade was down substantially on the day and many of the stallholders were disgruntled; and the group laid the blame squarely at the feet of the council’s marketing and promotions manager.
The Taste Festival attracted 20,000 people in 2011, but only half that number attended the 2012 event.
Frangipani Living owner Tina Ramos said the Taste Festival had been poorly managed and a complete disappointment for traders and stallholders.
She said the council had slashed the advertising budget it had in previous years and traders feared the Aroma Festival would be another disaster.
“The council finally put the stalls in the middle of the mall like we wanted [at the Taste Festival] but they spaced them too far apart and had them spread out of the mall,” she said.
“There wasn’t enough signage on the highway either; we used to have big electronic signs that brought people into the festival.”
Ms Ramos said the festivals had been a huge success when they began and the council needed to continue to build on that, especially with the revitalisation of the mall.
The traders have called on the council to return the reins of both events to the city centre management.
Maitland City Council general manager David Evans responded to the allegations and said:
“Council’s aim is to continuously improve the city’s flagship events and to ensure that they are meeting contemporary standards.
“This means that there will sometimes be adjustments to the format and programming.
“As part of this process council takes into account all feedback it receives from the community when planning events.”