The case of Novi Sad European Capital of Culture 2021 (NS2021), in which various rationales of cultural policy (local, national, supranational) thread a complex web of political interactions, brings interesting challenges to the theoretical landscape of cultural policy research. We start with the analysis of the Bidbook NS2021 as a cultural policy text, discussing its inconsistencies and ambiguities. Then we study the context and the policy process through participant observation and interviews with key authors. We find that the policy-making process is best explained as contingent - meaning that it is dependent on the historical discourses, demands of the specific policy genre, external requirements and internal pressures, and individual agencies and accidents. In the concluding section, we discuss theoretical and methodological implications that polic y contingenc y poses to cultural policy studies.