Pickerington Times-Sun

Violet Festival won't be blooming this June

Change of venue presented new set of obstacles that could not be overcome, organizers said

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The 2014 Violet Festival was officially canceled June 6 and with it, for at least this year, the hope that a new location could be utilized without a hitch.

Now, organizers are facing an uncertain future and hope the Violet Festival doesn't go the way of the former Pickerington Jazz and Blues Ribfest.

That event packed up and moved to Canal Winchester after failure to secure a beer tent as well as logistical and location quibbles spelled that Ribfest's fate in 2010.

This year's Violet Festival never got off the ground, however, after Pickerington City Council failed to gain a majority vote to place a noise ordinance waiver on the agenda.

Passage of the waiver would have signaled city support of the four-day event, slated to be held at Peace United Methodist Church on Diley Road July 23-26.

With no guarantee that country music legend Lee Greenwood and national rock bands Winger and Warrant, (Friday and Saturday night's respective lineups), could play music without the scenario of being shut down in mid-concert because of a noise ordinance violation, festival organizers pulled the plug.

After 16 successful years in downtown Pickerington's Violet Park and adjacent Pickerington Local School District ballfields, Violet Festival organizers had planned to relocate to Peace United Methodist Church's 31-acre campus because the school district declined to allow the festival use of its fields..

With the proposed move to the church, the festival was recognized as a private festival on private property, and the city's administrative staff was reluctant to lend support for the event.

Collective opposition from many residents of the Sheffield subdivision, which borders Peace United Methodist, further eroded support as concerns of potential overflow parking, noise and traffic generated by an estimated 40,000 attendees were voiced to City Council.

June 3, Pickerington City Council voted 3-3 on whether to place a waiver request for a noise ordinance on the agenda.

Councilman Jeff Fix was unable to attend the meeting and vote on the action requested,but he nonetheless expressed his opposition to the waiver in an open letter read by Council President Chris Schweitzer.

"While I am a longtime fan and supporter of the Violet Festival, I cannot support any city action that would provide special resources at a discounted rate or a variance of any city law pertaining to the festival," Fix wrote.

City Council President Chris Schweitzer said he did not see the need to continue the matter for a vote at a special meeting June 4.

"The special meeting was canceled because I felt that there would be no way a majority vote could be reached to send it through to a committee to vote to pass it back to Council for approval," Schweitzer said.

"It seemed like a waste of time and an additional chance for community divisiveness -- something no one needs," he said.

Violet Festival President Jason Heitmeyer said he was "sad and disappointed" the festival was canceled, but he believed the city's lack of support for the new venue left him little choice.

"We all understand it's not the city's fault that we collectively found ourselves in that position because of what the school board did not do, but City Council had an opportunity to continue the partnership and at least hear the noise ordinance," Heitmeyer said.

"You just don't know, it went down 3-3, maybe if we had further discussion it would have passed," he said.

As for the future of the Violet Festival, Heitmeyer was noncommittal.

"Honestly, I don't know, I really don't know," he said.

"We're going to take a step back and re-evaluate what the city wants and see how we can take a step forward," he said.

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