What’s in a name?

Several days a week for the last couple of weeks I’ve been pounding the pavement selling ads for our annual Azalea Festival edition.

As usual, we’ll attempt to have the most comprehensive pre-event and post-event coverage anywhere of McKinleyville’s annual town festival. Check out next Tuesday’s paper for pre-event coverage, and make sure you get out and enjoy at least some of the activities next weekend. I’ll post more on this blog next week. The week after, we’ll have coverage of the event in the paper and, if all goes as planned, I hope to have video of the parade on this blog!  


In the meantime, I’ll float an idea – next year the McKinleyville Chamber of Commerce should consider changing the event’s name back to Pony Express Days.


Pony Express Days, which began in the 1960s, was changed to Azalea Festival a few years ago. The idea was to re-brand the event and make it more relevant to the local populous.


Seems like everywhere I’ve gone in the last few weeks, people comment about how they dislike the name change. They want the old festival name back.


The comments are unsolicited and come from a broad cross-section of the community. Some folks get downright angry about the name change, but I understand the motivation behind it. There were some years of declining attendance and there was an effort to revitalize the festival. I’m not going to fault the volunteers who put on the event for trying something new.


But there’s clearly a strong sentiment in favor of changing the name back. I think this provides the chamber with an excellent marketing opportunity for 2009. The theme could revolve around celebrating McKinleyville’s heritage. Maybe the grand marshals could be those who have lived here for more than 50 years, or 70 years, or ????


Why not honor the town’s past? 



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12 responses to “What’s in a name?

  1. Anonymous

    I always liked Pony Express as that went with the history of the town. Azalea Festival just didn’t bring a “picture” to my mind. I guess the Chamber of Commerce tried it so now do we get to go back to Pony Express days??

  2. "Henchman of Justice"

    Maybe we can have two parades? It would be good for the community, and business too.

    Jeffrey Lytle
    McKinleyville – 5th District

  3. Ben

    When the Chamber decided to change the name from Pony Express Days to the Azalea Festival, they did so because Pony Express Days had declined signficantly and the idea was to reinvegorate the community celebration. If we wanted to go way back, it would be the Farmer’s Picnic held in the Hiller Grove in McKinleyville.

    As with any event, the difficulty is to get people involved and volunteer their time. As with the Azalea Festival, the people who were involved in the Pony Express Days also worked to orgainze the Azalea Festival. If new people want to volunteer their time and energy to a community event, they are more than welcome to call it anything they want.

    So, Jack, you could join the Chamber Board, and work to organize next year’s event. If you do the work, you can do the name.

  4. Anonymous

    Farmer’s Picnic, now you’re going wayyyy back. Clear back to before we had to have a million dollar insurance policy, a permit to have the parade, health permits for BBQ, alcohol permit for the beer, the health department testing the meat temperature. All those years and nobody got sick. My how times have changed.

  5. jackdurham

    I would be happy to help out the chamber next year. However, my newspaper duties include creating a pre-festival edition and covering the day’s activities, so I wouldn’t be of much use during the event.

    I have some ideas on what I could do prior to the event, so hit me up when planning starts for 2009.

    As for the name change, it was a suggestion that I thought would be helpful to the chamber. It seems like something you could capitalize on.

  6. Anonymous

    I understand that Ben and those associated with the Chamber do the work for this community event. However, it is supposed to be a community event, an event about the community. I hear every day this time of year, and often throughout the year, people complaining about the name change. I understand the reasoning behind the change, but the new name simply does not fit our town, nor does it honor our past. While struggling to include and improve, we should not forget the past. How about going back to Pony Express Days, and having a portion of it be the Azalea Festival? Like the happenings in the park? Or, it could be called Pony Express Days and Azalea Festival. There must be a compromise that accomplishes the goals the chamber had in mind without alienating so many community members.

  7. Ben

    Actually, there is the Pony Express Barbeque at the Azalea Festival.
    Speaking for myself, I claim no ownership of the event and invite anyone who wants to join the Chamber Board and plan for future events to please call the Chamber office and place your name on the list to be a board member. If new board members want to change things, go for it. If I can be perfectly blunt, if you don’t volunteer to work on the event and plan and do the work, you should not complain about the results.
    Jack, planning for next year starts immediately after the event.

  8. Ben

    Another thought,
    The Pony Express name came from a horse race between McKinleyville and Fieldbrook. The race died years ago because of a lack of participation but the name lived on. We all know that the Pony Express never came here and is not part of our past. So the question is what was here first the race or the flowers?

  9. Anonymous

    It was pony express day and azalea festival for a couple of years, and then it was azalea festival with the pony express barbeque, which I think it still is. It is a community event and the name is really inconsequential to people who truly care about the community. Take your kids to see the parade and maybe think, “wow, I wonder who does all this work. I really appreciate it”. Then go donate some money to Kiwanis, Rotary, Chamber, and shop at some local businesses.

  10. Anonymous

    I live in Arcata and there are many community events in my town because various people volunteer, organize, and revitalize them. The Kinetic Race, North Country Fair, and Oyster Festival, have all had ups and downs but have adapted and continued with new people getting involved.

    I think Ben is offering an open hand, if some of you want to formulate a different kind of event, I think he’d help support that too. As the article implies, its the people that create an event, not a name.

    McKinleyville has some reputation of being a place where people go who don’t care to engage with neighbors but choose to live in isolated nuclear households, identifying only with their personal churches and children’s schools. If only merchants are interested in organizing this festival, there may be truth to that.

  11. Dr. Bill

    Yes, Ben is right come join, get involved. Do some work. This past month Dave C. and the Kiwanis has spent 100’s of hours orgainizing and setting up parade. Rotary same thing setting up food tasting. Chamber board members setting up advertizing and cordinating. Thersa setting up car show. In the last 2 weeks I spent 30 hours getting the good people of this town to donate 1800 dollars for meat, 300 dollars for beer, 500 dollars for wood, and god knows how much for peoples time to cook, carry, slice, wrap, clean to put on BBQ. Ryan S and the Trinidad Ranch donating the stage and music. Ben with his ideas for spliting up parts of the whole thing and getting groups to do parts. All of us have jobs, families and responsibility. Yet we keep coming out and doing this because we love McKinleyville. Not just love it but are willing to give our time to make it a better place to live. If you don’t like what its called, get involved and own a part.
    Chamber is going to need people cause alot of the people are getting tired. I am a new comer and have been at it for 8 years now. As of Monday I will be resigning as a board member after 7 years of service so there is a spot just for you.

  12. jackdurham

    After the event, the chamber should issue an invitation to the community to get involved in planning for 2009. Hit me up before doing so and I’d be happy to help with the publicity.

    Unfortunately, I can’t make Monday meetings. But I can meet with chamber folks on other days.

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