Fry bread vendor sizzles over rebuff
Post Independent Staff
The owners of Mabel’s Kitchen, a longtime vendor at Strawberry Days, say they’re cooking up a lawsuit against the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.
Joe and Mabel Martinez, along with their son James, claim that after 23 years of supplying Indian fry bread to the Strawberry Days masses, the chamber kicked them out of the festival.
James Martinez said if the chamber doesn’t let them participate in the 2004 festival, they’ll sue the chamber and the city of Glenwood Springs for discrimination. The Martinez family are Native Americans, Martinez said.
Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association director Marianne Virgili on Thursday said there is no discrimination going on. Rather, it’s just a case of Mabel’s Kitchen not being chosen by the event’s vendor selection committee.
“They were not kicked out of the event, they were simply not accepted,” Virgili said.
James Martinez, speaking Thursday from the family’s winter home in Apache Junction, Ariz., said the chamber didn’t send his family an application in 2003 and when he inquired with the chamber about why this happened, he still received no reply.
He said he also received no application for the 2004 festival.
“They haven’t replied to me at all,” he said. “Nobody’s talked to me, nobody’s answered me.”
Martinez said his family depends on selling fry bread at festivals to earn their living. They live in Clifton during the summer.
“Hell, we’re suffering from this. That’s our supplemental income,” he said.
Virgili said after the chamber received a registered letter from James Martinez that threatened legal action, she decided to have the chamber’s attorney write the Martinez family a letter explaining why they weren’t chosen.
“It’s nothing personal,” she said.
Martinez insists neither he nor his family did anything to be “pushed out of the festival.”
Virgili said it’s possible Mabel’s Kitchen wasn’t chosen because the family had some sort of a run-in with police in 2002, but she wasn’t heavily involved in the squabble.
“I know the police chief had some issues with them; he did bring them over to talk to me,” she said.
Glenwood Springs police chief Terry Wilson, however, said from what he remembers, the incident was “nothing uncommon” and no arrests or citations were made.
“There have been instances of problems with vendors in the past. It’s a big event and those vendors work their fingers to the bone. They get hot and they get upset,” he said, speaking of Strawberry Days vendors in general.
Martinez said he’s not planning to sue the chamber because the family is “money hungry.”
“We don’t want to sue the city of Glenwood Springs. We just want to be in the festival and be left alone,” he said.
Martinez estimates his family lost $7,500 by not being able to participate in Strawberry Days in 2003.
Virgili said Mabel’s Kitchen was not invited to the festival simply because the committee that decides on vendors decided to invite another Indian fry bread vendor. She said the committee determined that two vendors selling the same type of food is too much.
“This year we have a limited number of vendors and we invited back the vendor we had last year,” she said. “We try, if at all possible, to use service club and local groups,” she said, noting that another longtime Strawberry Days vendor, a Greek food vendor, was not invited this year because a local restaurant applied, and was subsequently chosen.
Martinez said he’ll be coming to Colorado in the next two weeks to look into possible legal action.
Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511
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