Pickerington Times-Sun

Violet Festival plans to move to church grounds

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Left scrambling to find a suitable location after being denied use of the Pickerington Local School District's ballfields near Victory Park, Pickerington's Violet Festival has found a new location in which to entertain its more than 30,000 guests this summer.

Festival organizers have announced Peace United Methodist Church's 31-acre campus at 235 Diley Road will be the site for the 2014 Pickerington Violet Festival, which is scheduled for July 23-26.

For the previous 16 years the four-day festival has taken place in the city's Victory Park and the adjacent Pickerington High School Central ballfields.

"The plan was to stay status-quo for as long as possible," said Jason Heitmeyer, president of the Violet Festival Board of Directors.

"(The school district) has been looking to improve their fields to a higher level," Heitmeyer said.

"We can create damage to the fields, so they want to minimize the risks," he said.

"It came time for us to find an alternative location."

Heitmeyer said the new location will provide a more optimal setting in which to hold a large community-based festival.

"We've been for quite some time really squeezed on space," he said.

"This will let us spread our wings.

"It's still in the city limits and very close to downtown Pickerington.

"It has a vast amount of greenspace to hold all of the attractions we desire," Heitmeyer said.

The church grounds will allow more space for amusement rides, children's activities and national entertainment acts and the site also has ample parking, he said.

"Overall, we're excited about the prospects that our new home and partnership will make available," Heitmeyer said.

The Rev. Bill Lyle, senior pastor at Peace United Methodist Church, stated in a press release that the church looks "for meaningful ways to reach out and engage with the local community, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity."

Pickerington City Manager Bill Vance has expressed concerns with the arrangement, however, particularly regarding the church's close proximity to residential areas.

Vance said the city recommended Pickerington High School Central's parking lots as the best location for the 2014 Violet Festival.

He said the new location is "problematic to support" because of public safety concerns because "Peace United Methodist Church is adjacent to numerous densely populated residential neighborhoods."

Vance said the church is near the George's Creek, Sheffield and Colony Park subdivisions "and is very close to Manchester, Cherry Hill, Homestead, The Landings and Longview Acres subdivisions."

Vance said local government donations in the form of "in-kind public safety services" provided by the Pickerington Police Department and other city staff as well as the use of city equipment "are not possible for any event charging entrance fees which is located on private property."

Heitmeyer acknowledged plans call for the church grounds to host a beer tent at the festival.

Vance said he and Pickerington Police Chief Michael Taylor "also cannot assume responsibility for supporting the 'ABC' permit associated with the 2014 Violet Festival beer tent" on private property.

Vance said Violet Festival officials plan to attend the Pickerington City Council Finance Committee at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 21 to discuss the logistics and potential impacts behind the move. The meeting is scheduled for City Hall, 100 Lockville Road, Pickerington.

Heitmeyer said he hopes the festival's long-standing partnership with the city of Pickerington continues despite the location change.

"We anticipate there are going to be noise and traffic concerns, but it will be no different than (the festival) being downtown," he said.

"We will be a good neighbor" Heitmeyer said, adding there were no serious complaints lodged against the Pickerington Violet Festival in its previous 16 years of operation downtown.

"We're getting ready to do an information piece to all area residents to inform them (about the move) and give them an avenue to share any concerns they have," Heitmeyer said.

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