May barbecue and arts festival still lacks details

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Mark Wineka
The organizers of a first-time Salisbury Barbecue and Cultural Arts Festival ó being advertised statewide as a three-day getaway weekend ó haven’t secured the necessary festival permit for their May 1-3 event.
The festival permit requires a security plan, parking plan, business licenses for vendors and a $1 million certificate of insurance.
The permit also has to be secured a minimum of 30 days before the event is to be held.
“We thought we were following the correct procedures,” said George Busby, one of the organizers and founders of the non-profit Salisbury Rowan Cultural Arts Foundation.
Salisbury City Manager David Treme complained Tuesday that the arts community, Downtown Salisbury Inc. and tourism officials have had little knowledge of the festival.
Treme cited a lack of coordination and collaboration with the usual players and suggested that something like this normally takes at least a year of planning.
“We have just not seen the types of things we need,” Treme added. “… I feel most unprepared.”
The quandary for city officials is that the event has been publicized in Our State magazine and, for several months, on the Web site of the foundation.
City Councilman Mark Lewis said the city needs to accommodate the festival as much as it can at this point. If a couple thousand people came to the city expecting to enjoy a festival that doesn’t exist, the egg would be on the face of Salisbury, Lewis said.
“The horse is out of the barn,” he added.
“We’re sort of put in a position of having to approve it,” Mayor Susan Kluttz said.
Busby and Thomas Morgan, chairman of the foundation’s board, appeared before Salisbury City Council Tuesday to seek approval for the closing of the 300 block of East Council Street for May 1, when the barbecue festival portion is planned at Robertson Gateway Park.
Council approved the request to close the street that one day.
Things get complicated after that.
First, the foundation doesn’t have the festival permit.
Second, Lt. Melonie Thompson of the Police Department reported that an outside wedding is planned at the Salisbury depot’s gazebo at 3 p.m. May 2, when the foundation hoped to be having its arts festival at the adjacent Robertson Gateway Park.
Thompson said the depot wedding was scheduled last October, long before anything was known about the festival.
“This event is expecting a couple thousand people,” Mark Martin of the Public Services Department said of the festival and its conflict with the wedding. “I’m not sure exactly where all the people would park.”
Councilman Bill Burgin said it was obvious the two-day arts festival part of the event could not be held at Robertson Gateway Park. It would have to be moved, he said.
“You can’t set it up one place and move it to another,” Busby agreed.
Possible alternative locations mentioned Tuesday might be the “Wallace” parking lot off Liberty Street or the city’s Farmers Market property at South Main and East Bank streets, but nothing definite was decided.
Busby said the event needs room for about 25 10- by 10-foot tents for visiting artists who are paying $150 each for the space.
Morgan, who lives in Richfield, said the economic impact of a three-day cultural arts festival would exceed $1 million. The three days would include a juried arts show, the barbecue festival, a symphony concert, museum tours, a literary festival and a big band picnic concert, according to the foundation’s Web site.
It is “dedicated to celebrating and showcasing the cultural arts; honoring the diversity of the arts; and fostering and developing arts awareness, appreciation and education,” the Web site says.
“… You will meet authors, musicians, gallery owners, professors (and) actors from across the state in this Salisbury cultural arts festival in the ‘Heart of the Arts.’ ”
Kluttz applauded the concept but said she was concerned about the foundation’s not having the permit.
Lewis said the city can’t take the attitude that if parking isn’t easily identified it can’t have festivals.
He said parking was an issue that “doesn’t bother me in the least.” But the city does have a responsibility for the public’s welfare and safety, and that’s why it has the permit process, he said.
In the end, council gave Kluttz the authority to waive the 30-day requirement, pending satisfaction of the festival permit’s other requirements. Council also asked Police Chief Mark Wilhelm and Planning and Community Development Director Joe Morris to work with the foundation in ironing out many of the details.