Dispute ended ‘in spirit’ of festival | PostIndependent.com

Dispute ended ‘in spirit’ of festival

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – In the standoff between the local chamber resort association and an Arizona-based fry bread vendor, the chamber blinked first. Mabel’s Kitchen, a longtime Strawberry Days vendor whose owners threatened to file a discrimination lawsuit against the city when they were not chosen to participate in the festival, was allowed in after all. The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association’s nine-member board unanimously decided at a meeting last week to allow the Indian fry bread vendor to participate, chamber director Marianne Virgili said. “The chamber board felt we didn’t do anything wrong, but in the spirit of Strawberry Days and in the spirit of compromise, we decided to let them into the festival,” Virgili said. Mabel’s Kitchen owners Joe and Mabel Martinez and their son, James Martinez, all of Apache Junction, Ariz., first informed the chamber in a letter dated April 13 that they were planning to file a lawsuit against the city for discrimination unless they were allowed to take part in the festival this year. The Martinezes are Native Americans, Joe Martinez said.In a letter dated June 8, Joe Martinez warned the chamber that a suit would be filed within days if Mabel’s Kitchen wasn’t allowed back into the festival.”I just told them, straight up, ‘Let us in and we’ll leave you alone,'” he said.Virgili said the chamber has a number of projects coming up later this year and it didn’t want to garner the type of negative publicity that a lawsuit can bring. “I think the feeling was that the chamber devotes its energy to positive endeavors and we didn’t want to devote any energy to a lawsuit,” Virgili said. She added that the lawsuit “may have been a consideration,” but it wasn’t the main reason for letting Mabel’s Kitchen partake in the annual festival. Martinez said he’s glad his family’s vendor business was allowed in, but he said he thinks the threat of a lawsuit is the sole reason Mabel’s Kitchen was allowed back. “I just told them the laws they violated – 21 altogether – and what laws protect me,” he said. “The only reason they let us in was because they violated our rights clearly. I feel when your rights are being violated you have to stand up for yourself.”Virgili said the chamber board plans to revisit all the rules on how vendors are chosen and “spell out all the rules and regulations so we don’t have this type of miscommunication again.”Contact Greg Massé: 945-8515, ext. 511gmasse@postindependent.com

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