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By Robyn Wyman-Dill

The Second Saturday Art Fair, a popular weekend attraction in San Juan Capistrano, may have to fold up shop due to an escalating drop in artist vendors since 2011, say the event organizers.

The art fair, the brainchild of Randi and Joel Peshkin, who donate their time and expertise to organizing and administering the fair, attracts local and out-of-town artisans and tourists to the city monthly.

However, since the city’s municipal code began requiring an annual permit fee three years ago, vendors have become reluctant to participate, the Peshkins say. The city previously required artists to only pay a “per-event” permit fee.

The fate of the Second Saturday Art Fair is contingent on the codes being amended to a per-event fee basis, as the Peshkins have expressed the possibility of dissolving the events altogether if the fee structure remains the same.

“We used to have a $5 a show fee structure. Since the annual permit fee structure went into effect it has caused our numbers to drop from a pool of 400 jury-approved artist participants to under 60 registering this year,” Randi Peshkin said.

At the San Juan Capistrano City Council meeting on June 4, residents Jan Siegel and Nancy Ingham—both active in preserving the history and traditions found in Capistrano Valley—spoke out in support of the beleaguered fair’s request to adjust the city’s municipal codes.

Cindy Russell, the city’s chief financial officer, stated that annual fees were amended in March 2012. As a result, artist vendors are now required to purchase an initial annual license set at $49. Subsequent permit licenses for returning vendors are set at $16 annually. Vendors and businesses are also no longer required to re-apply for new permits when they change addresses, with home-occupied permit fees being eliminated altogether.

Yet, proponents of the per-event fee business license feel the current codes still continue to discourage new and returning artists from participating in the art fair.

“Some artists do no more than one or two shows.” Randi Peshkin said.

An umbrella license has also been proposed with the aim of allowing the principal organizers even greater opportunities to scout and expand the number of vendors beyond its current roster.

Mark Bodenhamer, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, feels the advantage to keeping the Second Saturday Art Fair is best measured by the number of calls their office receives monthly from out-of-towners inquiring about the event.

“These are the kind of desirable people we want to attract here,” Bodenhamer said. “They are both dedicated to the arts and providing increased commerce within the community.”

While the issue has not been resolved, Russell stated that a user study is being assembled to measure the Second Saturday Art Fair’s impact on local businesses and will be available for review by the City Council in July.

Yet, with so few artists participating, the event’s revenues no longer cover the set-up and operating costs.

“If this doesn’t happen soon, it will not only impact our events, it will continue to discourage other venues, like food festivals, from selecting San Juan Capistrano among the other contenders,” Randi Peshkin said.

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