NEW RICHMOND -- Following an hour discussion that included testimony once again by local business owners and residents who will be impacted negatively by a downtown location of Fun Fest the weekend of July 8-11, council members 4-2 in favor of allowing Fun Fest to take place minus the beer tent and music (live bands) at Minnesota Avenue between West Third and Fourth streets as well as West Third between Minnesota and Knowles avenues.
Business owners noted the festival’s impact lasts a whole week, including setup and takedown, in addition to the ongoing public health risk posed by the pandemic, behavioral and sanitation issues as well as noise and neighborhood parking concerns.
The city’s proposal to allow just the carnival and limited food vendors downtown in conjunction with the New Richmond Chamber of Commerce’s added safety measures and limited seating was an attempt at compromise and a nod to the impact vaccinations are having.
The city did reserve the right to cancel the event at any time if the pandemic surges once again.
“It would be a smaller footprint because you wouldn’t have the beer tent there so you would have more of Minnesota Avenue to use for carnival rides, opening up the parking lot and the intersection some. I know it doesn’t erase all of the problems, but then have the beer tent located somewhere else,” Alderman Mike Montello said.
Chamber Director Rob Kreibich noted the organization has been working diligently for months to find an acceptable location and collected signatures from 534 community members and 18 businesses endorsing the proposed location.
Multiple council members acknowledged the difficulty of respecting the concerns of local businesses and residents while balancing those against the benefits to the local economy and not wanting to cancel Fun Fest all while still operating amidst a pandemic.
Montello noted that this location would not be available in all likelihood next year pending the redevelopment of the Beebe building and that a downtown location is not a viable solution going forward.
Thecouncil made it clear that this would be a one-time solution and encouraged the chamber to begin researching a permanent long-term solution for Fun Fest.
Kreibich agreed to take the council’s offer to his board of directors and get back to the council with their decision.
Although it would require a significant investment in infrastructure, Freedom Park was raised as a possible future alternative.