Pickerington Times-Sun

Violet Festival

City and event organizers are still at odds

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The Pickerington Violet Festival's impending move to Peace United Methodist Church's 31-acre campus on Diley Road could be in jeopardy if Pickerington City Council does not officially support the event.

For the past 16 years, the Violet Festival has been the city's signature event, bringing as many as 40,000 people to Victory Park and the adjacent Pickerington Local School District's ballfields for four days of music, games and food in late July.

When the school district decided to forego allowing the festival to utilize the ballfields this year, festival officials were left scrambling to find a suitable alternative site.

Stepping up to the plate was Peace United Methodist Church, 235 Diley Road, in the city of Pickerington. The church offered use of its expansive grounds for the festival.

May 21, Pickerington City Council's Finance Committee heard a presentation by Violet Festival President Jason Heitmeyer, who outlined reasons for the change of venue and then requested city support.

"It's pretty straightforward," Heitmeyer said.

"We're looking for city support of the Violet Festival, essentially the same as years past," he said.

Heitmeyer said the Violet Festival remains a "great awareness tool" for the city and the move to Peace United Methodist Church is pretty much the only option left short of canceling the festival or moving it elsewhere.

"If not for Peace United Methodist (Church), we would have to look outside the city of Pickerington; nobody wants that," Heitmeyer said.

Some Pickerington residents, primarily homeowners in the Sheffield subdivision adjacent to the church's property, said they won't support a large-scale, four-day festival complete with rock music and a beer tent. They worry about overflow parking congesting neighborhood streets.

"When I moved to this city, I did not sign up for a party of 40,000 (people) next door," said Mark Youngkin of the Sheffield subdivision.

"I'm not looking forward to hosting overflow parking and noise from outdoor concerts," Youngkin said.

However, one Sheffield resident told City Council she was not fazed by the expected big crowds and noise.

"I absolutely support the festival," said Samantha Babcock.

"I have five children. I'm okay with four days of loud music," she said.

"This is a community festival, and new family activities are being added."

Babcock said "quite a few" of her neighbors in the Sheffield subdivision "are indifferent, and don't care either way" about having the Violet Festival next door.

Pickerington City Manager Bill Vance has made it clear from the outset the city's administrative arm will not support the Violet Festival's new location.

"The city manager cannot sign off on the utilization of resources for a private event on private property," Vance said.

He said the city will enforce the noise ordinance if there is a complaint about loud music, most likely a given considering the festival's rock and roll musical line-up.

Vance also said he can't support an "ABC permit" which would allow a beer tent to operate on private property.

The Rev. Bill Lyle, senior pastor at Peace United Methodist, said his flock simply is trying to accommodate a very positive, long-standing and successful event.

"I'm proud to be part of a community that would hold an event like this," Lyle said.

"Change is difficult (but) I would hate to see this event go away," he said.

"Whether it's on private or public property is not the issue," Lyle said.

Ultimately, it will be up to Pickerington City Council to sign off on a beer permit and to waive the city's noise, or nuisance, ordinance in order to allow bands to proceed without fear of shutting the concerts down.

It was possible council's vote about whether to approve a noise waiver and beer permit could have occurred during the body regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, June 3.

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