Macedonia rec commission planning parties in the park

by Jeff Saunders | Reporter Published:

Macedonia -- The return of a large-scale city festival is unlikely to happen this year, but a festival next year is possible and in the meantime, Longwood Park may be the scene of some smaller events this summer.

The city's parks and recreation commission began considering possible events for the park Jan. 30, including a repeat of last summer's Movie in the Park and fireworks show and a classic car cruise-in with a local band providing music.

"I think we can do the fireworks and a concert or two would be great," said Commission member Joe Biber.

Parks and Recreation Director Angela Gmerek said the latter event drew a good crowd with about 30 cars.

"We had a decent turnout for a first-time event," she said.

"We'd like to expand something like that," she added, perhaps with a children's activity area.

Other ideas proposed include a monthly concert with a local band and a children's festival with inflatables, a rock climbing wall and even a parade within the park.

"We'll come up with approximate costs for this stuff," said Gmerek, adding she does not believe costs will be excessive, especially since some of it could be recouped through vendors paying for space.

Commission member Jennifer Molnar said she would like to see "some kind of abbreviated version" this year of the kind of larger scale, multi-day festival that the city used to put on annually.

City Council killed funding for the festival in a Jan. 24 vote on a motion made by Councilor Nick Molnar, Jennifer Molnar's husband, to provide $50,000 for a festival this summer.

The motion failed when Mayor Don Kuchta declined to cast a tie-breaking vote.

Kuchta said that while he wants to bring back the festival, he does not believe it is the mayor's place to cast a vote involving funding.

"This has to do with the finances of the city," he said. "The administration makes things happen, Council holds the purse strings."

The city's proposed 2013 budget appropriations, which Council began considering Jan. 31, does include a $25,000 line item for a "community event." Finance Director Scott Svab said that if Council approves the budget with the appropriation, the money could be used to help pay for events this summer or held for a festival next year.

For years the city sponsored an annual festival in Longwood Park. Variously called Home Days or Fun Fest, it lasted as long as three or four days and included rides, vendors and a fireworks show.

Citing budget constraints, the city last hosted the festival in 2006, although there was a smaller one-day event called Community Day in 2007, with no rides, but with a fireworks show the previous evening.

Molnar said he was inspired to attempt bringing back the festival by the success of the city's outdoors Movie in the Park event last summer, which included the city's first fireworks show since Community Day.

"There had to be 2,000 people there," said Molnar.

Gmerek, however, said that it is too late in to start planning such a large event for this summer. She said that in checking with ride vendors, it is likely that the city would be limited to holding a festival in June, putting it in a probable conflict with the annual St. Barnabas Parish Festival.

"We are very, very, very, very late in the game for planning purposes," Gmerek told Council.

Councilor Dave Engle, who chairs Council's finance committee and voted against Molnar's motion, said he is concerned about approving the funding because Council had not yet even begun to discuss the city's permanent 2013 budget.

"I'm not willing to do it this year because we started too late," he said. "I think it's a goal that's worthwhile. I'm just not willing to take a risk without organization."

Molnar said he believes the festival could have been done this year. He also said it should not have been a surprise to anyone since Council said last year it would work to restore the festival in 2013.

"In 2012, we committed to this. It's not like this is anything new," he said.

Councilor Shane Barker. Council's representative to the parks and recreation commission and who also voted in favor of Molnar's motion, told the commission he believes Council should appropriate money for a festival in 2014 in this year's budget.

"If we don't do it this year, you're going to have the same thing next year," he said. "We need to put the money there."

Email: jsaunders@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9432

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