Pungo Strawberry Festival responds to parking problem

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – 10 On Your Side continues to look into a parking problem in Pungo. Virginia Beach police would not let people going to the Strawberry Festival park on one man’s private property.

Officers blocked off Gene Hansen’s farm on Princess Anne Road. Hansen told us that festival-goers have parked there for more than 20 years.

We wanted to know: What was different this year from years past? Why couldn’t Back Bay Farms host their own parking? The festival’s board responded Sunday.

This Memorial Day weekend, the fields of Back Bay Farms sat empty. After more than 20 years of festival parking, a dispute between the owner and the festival board closed one of the largest lots.

“When this land owner said, ‘No, I don’t accept your agreement,’ the controversy was over,” David Pace, board member of the festival said. “The discussion was over. He said I’ll get my own permit and I’ll get my own insurance.”

But, according to a representative of the city of Virginia Beach, that’s not possible. Parking permits for the Strawberry Festival have always gone through the festival committee.

“The festival is the only reason that one car would park on his land because he’s not having an event,” Pace said. “When he has his other events they park on his land and it generates revenue for that because yes, they are his events.

Pace said the festival receives a percentage of the proceeds and the owners of the land get a share for allowing their land to be used.

Whereas, landowner Gene Hansen claimed he wanted all of Saturday’s parking funds to go to the children’s charity the Noblemen.

Pace said without parking revenue they can’t run the festival.

“It’s expensive to run this festival and our only hope was that we would get donations back from the revenue’s generated on that land owner’s lot in order to help offset some of those expenses,” Pace said.

The decision to not work with the Back Bay Farms and Noblemen has nothing to do with the charity according to Pace. He also added, the Strawberry Festival also is a non-profit.

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