Pickerington Times-Sun

Violet Festival

Organizers hope to move event to Sycamore Park


Aiming to expand the Violet Festival's physical "footprint" as well as diversify its entertainment offerings, the Violet Festival Board has voted to move the four-day event from its current location in Victory Park to the much larger Sycamore Park in Pickerington.

If ultimately approved by Pickerington City Council, the move would be effective in the summer of 2013.

Festival Board Chairman Jason Heitmeyer said the Violet Festival, which each summer attracts an estimated 40,000 people to the heart of the city, has simply outgrown the relatively snug confines of Victory Park.

"We're maxed out on space," he said, adding those space limitations also preclude the festival from offering more diverse fare.

"The primary reason (for the move) is to create a much more encompassing, inclusive event, to really be able to showcase the festival and the community by having more space and flexibility with all the events that go on," Heitmeyer said.

He detailed the changes organizers expect with the move.

"We'll be able to have a secondary area and have more family events," Heitmeyer said.

"We'll do more things with the schools and all the different things they want to promote."

He mentioned puppet shows, exhibitions from local dance troupes, as well as a beauty pageant as examples of the expanded programming.

City Council's Parks and Recreation Board representative Tony Barletta said the Parks Board unanimously voted to move the idea forward at its Nov. 12 meeting, however, he acknowledged the logistics of such a move will need fine tuning to pass muster down the line.

"The Violet Festival Board offered to work with the city to make some of the capital improvements that would be necessary to support the festival, like upgrading the electrical service," Barletta said.

The Parks Board "reviewed the pros and cons of relocating the festival and we did not find any show-stopping issues," he said.

One concern is how the festival would affect another part of town, specifically the Pickerington Hills neighborhood that borders Sycamore Park.

"It would impact a different group of neighbors," Barletta said.

"We're hoping it would be a successful event and not too much of an imposition.

"I know there's a concern about parking and a lot of details would need to be worked out about parking," Barletta said.

Heitmeyer said parking will be addressed.

"We'll have to look at shuttle services to get people in and out of the park efficiently," he said.

"The concern is we don't want to burden neighbors in Pickerington Hills with parking congestion."

Barletta said preliminary plans call for two stages in Sycamore Park, with one stage at the western end of Sycamore Park, by the skate park "and another further in the park."

He said the venue hopes to also present more "arts and crafts" activities.

City Council's representative to the Violet Festival, Councilman Chris Schweitzer, said a move to Sycamore Park could also improve the Violet Festival's recent reputation.

"They get a bad rap that it is essentially one giant party, Schweitzer said.

"We want a lot of businesses involved and the community involved, so we can get away from that negativity," he said.

"It has been misnomered as being an 'adult music festival' that caters to an adult crowd.

"We want to make sure it appeals to a much wider crowd and a bigger demographic," Schweitzer said, adding that "if you're 10 and under, there's nothing much to do."

He said the festival can achieve that demographic balance by providing more kid-friendly activities in addition to its regular programming and a move to Sycamore Park will help facilitate the transformation.

Schweitzer said the Violet Festival is also in the process of re-branding with "an updated logo" that will "breathe new life" into the festival's promotional efforts.

Barletta said "much remains to be done" if the move to Sycamore Park is to occur by the summer of 2013.

"It is proposed, it is not a done deal," Barletta said.

"It will have to be worked through (City Council's) Safety Committee."

He said the Violet Festival will also be required to submit an "event packet" detailing the plans to the Park and Recreation Board.

"As a city we want to see them have more of a plan," Schweitzer said.

"We're not just going to give them admittance to (Sycamore) Park," he said.

"There are just so many moving parts right now."