The budget for Vineland, N.J.,’s 150th anniversary is about $50,000, money that has been donated. About $7,000 of donated money will be used for a cake. And while a representative for the celebration committee says that they are trying to use local businesses as much as possible, they didn’t try to use one of Vineland’s local bakeries for the cake. Instead, the mayor of Vineland ordered a cake from the well-known Carlos Bakery of “Cake Boss” fame.

Philadelphia’s CBS News interviewed several of the city’s local bakers. They say that the decision to use a bakery 150 miles away is not in keeping with the tone of the celebration that is honoring all that is great about Vineland. (Keep an eye out at about 1:40 in this video for one of MNN’s Reader’s Choice 40 Chefs Under 40, Jill McLennen of The Sweet Life Bakery in Vineland.)

I first learned about this issue from The Sweet Life’s Facebook page when they linked to an article about the mayor’s decision to go with “the most popular baker in America” to create a cake with a “Vineland theme with various kinds of produce like tomatoes, corn, eggplant, and ‘things that symbolize the farming culture,’ some dandelions, and maybe even Welch's grape juice.”

The obvious question is, if the cake is supposed to symbolize everything that is Vineland, why would the mayor not choose a Vineland bakery to make it? 

Another question is, why would he not choose to keep $7,000 in the local economy of the city that is working hard to revitalize itself instead of giving that money to bakery that has no association with the city? A great way to invest in the future is to invest in the local businesses.

The Sweet Life Bakery and other bakeries in town have decided that their cakes will be part of the celebration anyway. They’ve organized Operation Cake Bomb as a way to “jump into the event un-invited but in a positive manner.”

The Sweet Life Bakery, Crust N Krumbs Bakery, Jim Main's Bakery and hopefully La Hacienda will all be donating our time and product to show Vineland that we have AMAZING bakeries right here in our city.
They’re asking people to wear T-shirts or make signs in support of local businesses (even if they aren’t bakeries) and to march in a parade that will show support of the local business community. In a positive and classy move, the organizers of Operation Cake Bomb are asking that those who participate bring no negative signs against the mayor or Cake Boss. Messages should be positive and support local businesses.

What do you think? When a city has an opportunity to support local businesses — especially when those local businesses support other local businesses? (I know The Sweet Life Bakery is a huge supporter of local food producers, and chances are some of the other bakeries are, too.) Should it turn to those local businesses first for something like this? Or does the prestige of having a celebrity create the cake make more sense for a big celebration? 

MNN homepage photo: iStockphoto

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Should a town use local businesses for local celebrations?
The city of Vineland, N.J., is planning its 150th anniversary celebration for this weekend. It's also in the middle of a cake controversy.