The most infamous hot dog stand in Parkville history.
By Mark VastoJust when you thought you were out, they pull you back in. The chronicle of the Denney family’s attempt to start a hot dog vendor cart business in downtown Parkville dominated the news during the late summer months and, like some hot dogs are wont to do, the story keeps coming up.
In brief, John and Pam Denney were granted a two-week, temporary vendor’s license to operate a hot dog stand in downtown Parkville’s vacant lot next to the train tracks, directly across from the vacant Power Plant location. The lot has been empty since a train derailment demolished the building on site in 1999.
Alleging a pattern of consistent harassment and abuse at the hands of downtown merchants and landlords such as Tom Hutsler, Dave Williams and others, the Denney’s opted not to try and renew their license at the end of their two week run. In a letter to the Parkville Board of Aldermen, subsequently reprinted in The Parkville Luminary, the Denney’s referred to those harassing them as a “clique of vigilantes” who had no discernible vision for the downtown. The story prompted a maelstrom of events downtown, all of which were chronicled by The Luminary (Editor’s note: background to follow in upcoming posts...if that makes any sense).
Now, The Luminary has learned, the husband and wife vending team have had their application rejected by the 2009 Christmas on the River Committee.
“We tried to apply for [the vending license] the minute we heard they were available but we were told that the applications were not ready yet, that there was going to be a different set of rules this year, ” Pam Denney said after being contacted by The Luminary. Denney said she had spoken to Main Street Parkville Association Chair Carol Kuhns and Ward 1 Alderman Deborah Butcher in the matter. Both are co-chairs of the annual Christmas gala. Denney said they filled out the application and sent in a check immediately.
Following some turmoil amongst the Christmas on the River Committee in regards to vending at the event – the vendors were, at first, handled by Butcher until Tom Hutsler wrested the task away at a meeting of the committee – the Denney’s were denied.
“We were told they were going in a different direction,” Denney said.
When contacted by The Luminary, Butcher confirmed that the Denney’s application had been denied and that the vending applications were being handled by Hutsler. (Editor’s note: due to ongoing litigation between Hutsler and the reporter for this story, Hutsler was not reached for comment.)
The criteria for selecting vendors, she said, was changed to weigh in favor of event seniority and not-for-profit status.
Specifically, the hierarchy weighs in favor of local businesses (who do not have to pay a vending fee, a change instituted in 2005), non-profit organizations, for-profit organizations with prior festival experience and, lastly, new for-profit vendors. The Denney’s acknowledge that they fall into the latter category. Their first events were Parkville Days and the Fourth of July. They also were invited to the inaugural Parktoberfest.
“Once we decided to do this, we went to Parkville first,” Denney, a 48 year resident of the area with three Park Hill educated children, explained. “Parkville just steered our heart; it’s our home and you just kind of want to stay in your hometown.”
Christmas on the River has approved 19 vendors, all of which will be corralled in the southern part of Main Street during the festival, their traditional location.
The festival area is approved by the Parkville Community Land and Recreation Board, who then recommend the festival space to the Board of Aldermen, who ultimately approve the event. They do not, however, manage the minutiae of the event, such as activities and vending applications. Those tasks are handled by the festival planners under the umbrella of the Parkville Community Development Corporation, a 501-c3 chaired by Tim Rice.
At festivals, space considerations do come into play, but the Denney’s suspect that their rejection stems from their feud with Hutsler.
“We know why we’re not coming back...we heard about the meetings,” Denney said, adding she has no ill-will towards Carol Kuhns, Butcher or the staff at City Hall..
“It’s their prerogative to change direction. [John and I] have nothing against these ladies...nothing personal at all. They appear to be very dilligent at what they do.”
The Denneys said they would continue to pedal their Chicago style hot dogs at festivals around the region, naming Riverside, Liberty, Kearny and Kansas City as potential spots to work. One thing, however, is certain: they will continue to sell.
“We’ll survive,” Denney predicted. “We’re not going to fold up.”