First time in more than 30 years without Venetian Festival

This marks the first time in more than 30 years the city of St. Joseph won’t hold its annual Venetian Festival.

Back in September, the board of directors voted to discontinue and dissolve the festival for financial and logistical reasons.

That means this weekend’s Krasl Arts Fair is the last big summer festival in St. Joe.

“Art festival is our busiest weekend, but Venetian Festival is next,” said Tom Jennings, owner of the Pump House Grille. “So, it's really disappointing.”

But other businesses complained the Venetian Festival drew people away from downtown.

Some closed during the festival because of crowd and parking issues while others say it just became too expensive to participate.

“It became overwhelming for us,” said Ursula Nuechterlein, co-owner of Louie’s Red Hots. “We actually didn't come out of it financially three years ago.”

Nuechterlein and her husband decided not to participate in the festival the past two years because it became too much.

Vitale’s Subs also didn’t reap the benefits of the thousands of visitors that came to town for the celebration – last year’s Venetian Festival weekend was their slowest of the year.

“I grew up here when Venetian first started out and it was a small festival to celebrate local food,” said Vitale’s owner Jason Rosenthal. “And then it became bigger and bigger and bigger. And I'm OK that it's gone because the people who organized it didn't remember where they came from.”

Despite the festival being discontinued, some business owners want a new one to take its place.

“Our business association has a budget, we have hotels that are behind it,” Jennings said. “I think we have members behind it. It may take a while, but I'm certainly hoping to push it next year.”

But if a new festival starts up in St. Joe, others hope organizers will learn from Venetian’s failures.

“How do we not make the same mistake twice?” Rosenthal said. “Let’s pay attention to history.”

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