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EVENT BARS VENDOR FOR NOT HIKING CIDER PRICE

Brendan D. Smith has been selling cider for $2.50 a gallon, and he figured demand would be great next week at the annual Niagara Apple Country Festival.

But he won't be able to sell it at the festival, which bills itself as promoting local apples and business.

That's because other cider producers at the festival plan to sell their cider for $3 a gallon.

Smith, who operates the 20-acre Smith's Orchard on Mapleton Road, said his application to participate in the Oct. 11-12 festival at the Niagara County Fairgrounds was rejected by its sponsor, the Eastern Niagara Chamber of Commerce, because he refused to raise his cider price.

David R. Kinyon, chairman of the Chamber's Festival Committee, acknowledged that he returned Smith's $50 participation fee.

"We do not want vendors underselling one another," he said. "The festival aims to promote Niagara apples and local businesses. We have ground rules."

Smith, 31, a metallurgist and Coast Guard veteran with Desert Storm service, said he has spent $38,000 upgrading the former Dietz Cider Mill at Rapids, a small Niagara County community, as a step toward making his apple growing and cider making a full-time occupation.

But in a letter to Smith, Kinyon wrote:

"Despite repeated requests (last year) from members of the Festival Committee, your farm continued to attempt to undersell all others who were selling apple cider . . . In addition, members of the Festival Committee were treated rudely. In contrast, other farm markets/growers cooperated."

"We encourage our participating farm markets/growers to utilize the event as an opportunity to promote their businesses, especially to develop their retail businesses as destinations for Western New York consumers and to encourage repeat business -- not to utilize the festival as a competitive marketplace where sizable profits are to be expected," Kinyon added.

Smith was cool to Kinyon's approach.

"I can make money selling my cider at $2.50 a gallon," Smith said. "So why should I have to raise the price to $3?

"If I sold it for $3 at the festival and people came to my cider mill and saw they could buy cider for $2.50, they would ask questions."

Smith said that last year he refused festival requests to raise his cider prices to $3 and sold 600 to 900 gallons.

"I gave samples and invited people to my stand," he said. "I did not just stand around and wait."

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