Did You Hear The One About The Town That Wanted a Cake For Its Birthday?

This past week was certainly an eventful one in Vineland.

It’s a tale as old as time: town has big celebration, mayor wants fancy cake, mayor decides to get cake from big boffo celeb baker, local bakeries get upset, bakeries plan protest, harsh words gets exchanged, cooler heads prevail, big boffo celeb baker is told thanks but no thanks, and local bakeries carry the day. It’s the kind of storyline that might make one ask:

WHAT IN THE NAME OF CHARLES KLINE LANDIS IS GOING ON HERE?!?

In an effort to make Vineland’s 150th anniversary an extra special event, Mayor Robert Romano made a trip to Hoboken to seek out the services of one Buddy Valastro of Carlo’s City Hall Bakery, known affectionately as “The Cake Boss”. The mayor and his wife were fans of the popular TV show that has catapulted Valastro into national prominence, and decided that a tripped-out cake from The Cake Boss would be just the thing. Local businesses were willing to cover the cost, so not a cent of Your Tax Dollars At Work was going to pay for the cake. So what was the problem?

Well, evidently it didn’t occur to the mayor or his Blue Ribbon Committee in charge of the celebration to ask any of the bakeries in Vineland if they wanted to be a part of the festivities. When news of the cake deal came out last Saturday, there was quite the uproar from local bakers and residents alike. And then there was the reaction to the reaction, lead by the mayor himself, accusing the local bakeries of trying to grab some attention for themselves and losing sight of the meaning of the celebration.

Reaction lead to action, as in a peaceful protest that was being formed by Jim Main’s, Krust N Crumbs, our friends Stephen and Jill at Sweet Life Bakery. The Cake Bomb (which was later renamed to a less-threatening Honor the Past, Embrace our Merchants Walk) was going to be the way the local bakeries would get themselves into the festivities.

Thankfully, the Blue Ribbon Committee sought a better solution. After meeting with the local bakeries last Tuesday, it was agreed to have them participate officially in the celebration. But then the mayor took one extra (some might say childish) step and canceled the cake from The Cake Boss, something that the local bakers were not demanding. So now it was going to be totally up to the locals to supply the cakey goodness. And supply it they did, to the tune of over 2,000 slices!

So what do we take from all of this? For one thing, people can sure get a case of the crazies. Read the comments to any of the news articles and Facebook pages attached and you’ll see what I mean. And the craziness was coming from both sides of the argument. While I don’t think the mayor or the committee was knowingly trying to snub anyone, they sure didn’t make themselves out to be reasonable folk (at least for a few days) by using the we-were-never-approached-by-the-bakeries-during-the-three-years-we-were-planning-this argument. My response to that would be: in the three years you were planning this event, it never occurred to you to approach the bakeries to see if anyone was interested in being a participant? If the committee had asked at some point, and the bakeries hadn’t responded or had declined the invite, then this would be a very different conversation. But considering that Vineland has been making a push to make itself out to be a food destination (the Landis MarketPlace, developing a restaurant row, food festivals, etc.), the fact that local bakeries were not even approached to make the birthday cake for the big event seems, well, rather odd.

And as for you, local bakeries and supporters of all things local in Vineland…although the end result was a ‘win’ for local business, was all the outrage really necessary? From what I can gather, this seemed like a matter of Mayor Romano wanting to make a big splash with the celebration, and not a judgment on the bakeries in Vineland. (Stephen, I think the world of you, but ‘a slap in the face’? C’mon now.) Although, let’s face it, the bakeries in Vineland did get some really nice coverage and exposure by the outrage and planned protest, wouldn’t a simple call to the Blue Ribbon Committee right after the news was announced have been more, erm, appropriate? If that had taken place, and you were then subsequently snubbed by the committee, then by all means plan a protest. Just a thought. (Then again, you guys got to be on TV, so what do I know?)

In the end, the people who showed up for Vineland’s 150th got cake – cake that was made locally – and there were smiles all around. And I am sure that The Cake Boss wasn’t losing any sleep over it.

An opinion piece? Yeah, we do those, too. I would love to hear what you think – especially anyone who was close to the action last week in Vineland.

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