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Better seating planned

The school district will loan portable bleachers to the chamber of commerce for its increasingly popular Cherry Idol event during Cherry Festival, the school board agreed on Tuesday.

How many the chamber will need — and how many will fit in the space — will be decided soon.

The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lisa Farquharson said the free, family-friendly Idol singing event has grown in popularity, and bleachers will make navigating the area easier.

Most contestants in the Northwest Cherry Idol competition in late April are high school students, Farquharson said, which met the Northern Wasco County School District 21’s requirements that the loaning of portable bleachers go to events supporting children.

In two years, the Cherry Idol event, held at the base of Washington Street downtown, has grown to standing room only. With bleachers, “We can stack ‘em up and sit ‘em down,” Farquharson said.

School board member Dean McAllister, a cherry grower, mentioned the significant economic role cherries play in the economy and that over 100 family cherry farms are honored by the chamber’s annual Cherry Festival.

He said cherry producers are among the top taxpayers in the county and he supported the school district loaning out the bleachers.

The school district’s policy on loaning out bleachers to organizations is that they have no other viable alternative available to them, and that the event benefits children, said board Chair Kathy Ursprung.

Superintendent Candy Armstrong said the district wanted to be good community partners and didn’t want to compete with businesses that rent equipment such as bleachers.

Farquharson said the rental company she is working with doesn’t have bleachers and would have to get them from Portland, which is prohibitively expensive because the Idol contest is a free event.

Farquharson said the chamber has event insurance and the school district is named in the policy. She said the chamber was used to the need for liability insurance, since the chamber asks the same of others.

A drag race event held in Dallesport during the summer is expected to also request the bleachers, Ursprung said.

Board member Ernie Blatz said the bleachers weren’t new anymore, and he wondered if a replacement or overhaul discussion should be pursued. Ursprung suggested taking that up in the fall.

Farquharson thanked the school board for the loaning of the bleachers and said, “We’ll save you a row, unless you want to enter the contest.”


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