By Caitlin Croft
The youngest and newest member of the Village Board and newly appointed chair of the Special Events Committee, Spencer Murray, opened the forum held at the Village Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 25. “I want to thank everyone for coming to this. It is remarkable we were able to get so many members of the Village and Town together to share ideas.” Murray addressed the standing room only crowd, “This meeting is about this past Fall Festival and how we can improve for the future regarding safety, organization and structure of this event. I want to thank the Chamber of Commerce and Village business owners for attending.”
The first speaker from the floor was John Northrup who read a letter from his wife, Anne, who unfortunately could not attend. In summary: “I believe I have accomplished what I set out to do, to simply start the discussion about Fall Festival. My intent with the energy that I put into this was positive… I believe many have reached a ‘tipping point,’ it is time for this community to come together and communicate openly, have more transparency going forward to make this event and other events in our wonderful home better.”
Northrup also suggested in her letter that a small committee be formed that is created from a cross-section of the community; business owners, residents, chamber and village officials. She commended those who have worked so hard the past 24 years to turn Fall Festival into the driving force it is.
Next, Greg Cappelli spoke in agreement with Northrup that a committee formed of all stakeholders in the event would make sense.
Erin Cornelius had the floor next, expressing two sentiments: One, that she would like to see better quality control on the vendors after they are set up. “There was a tent on W. Washington that had tee shirts advocating gun violence,” she said. She does not believe that is the direction or intent of the event and hopes to see better quality control. Two, that we as village owners and residents need to take some of the responsibility on ourselves. She stated there are certain things you do to prepare for the weekend. “You know traffic will be hectic for the weekend, we stock up as if there is a storm headed our way. We had an issue with people parking on our lawn, so this year we bought stakes and rope to barricade it off.”
Cornelius thanked everyone for listening and the meeting continued. The major recurring topics were vendor quality, parking, crowd control and making the festival more about the day time activities than the drinking festivities.
Jack Smeltz, a full time resident for five years now, commends the work that has been done since he moved here to clean up the festival. “There is a major difference between five years ago and now.”
Spencer Timkey spoke to the parking and vendor quality: “I have experienced Fall Festival at every age, a kid, an adolescent and adult. My concern is with a potential emergency and a fire truck or ambulance getting in and out of the village; we also don’t need toe rings (as the crowd laughs). There is no reason to have someone doing custom fit toe rings, get them out of here.”
Melanie Pritchard spoke next regarding motorcycles parking within the designated no park areas. She noticed on multiple occasions that at the end of Monroe Street at Elizabeth Street there were many motorcycles parked and had an emergency vehicle needed to get in, it would have been blocked.
Sean Lowes agreed with Pritchard, stating something needed to be done about the bikes. He next stated that he loves how this event has grown over the years and believes it has been much better managed the past five years. He complimented the Chamber for how hard they work to get the Village back to its normal condition and suggested that we have scouts next year on Monday morning walk around and get the one or two pizza plates that may have been missed.
Mary Dietrich suggested that shuttle and parking up to 5-6 miles outside of the village to reduce the parking issues now.
Elaine Northrup stated she loved that Murray was holding this meeting and that the younger generation needs to get more involved. She suggested we bring it down in size and focus on better communication between all involved. Also Northrup stated, “I would like to see the focus on the high end art be brought back.”
J.P. O’Connell agreed with E. Northrup, but suggested maybe we hold that a different weekend in October. “Unfortunately, the people who are coming will not be spending $500 on a piece of art. They come here to check out the tents, buy a few things, drink, eat and make memories with their friends.”
Gwen Bush spoke in regards to how well the Chamber has been doing and that many do not see what is going on behind the scenes. “I had an issue with motorcycles cutting down my walking path a few years back. I complained and sure enough, Monday morning I had cement pole barriers. If you have a problem and bring it to the Chamber, they will listen.”
Next, Don Auge, Chief of the Village Police, was asked to give his thoughts on the festival. “This was better than most. There were only 60 calls for service and many were not emergency situations, such as parking tickets or alarms going off. “There were only two fights all weekend and overall I am very happy.”
Next, Assistant Fire Chief Robert Germain advised there was only one fire call and 10 other calls. This is five less than last year and seven of the calls were regarding heat. There were fewer medical calls than last year.
Jess Gilbert next spoke on how she wants to see more emphasis on the stores that are there all year round. “The store owners deserve to see that same explosion of business that the bars and restaurants get. We need to work to highlight them.” Gilbert doesn’t feel the store owners should have to buy a tent, but noted her business increased exponentially this year because she could direct customers to the store.
Tyler Burns spoke to the extreme positive benefits Fall Festival brings to our community and that with all good things there will be some bad parts.
Next Pamela Evans, a secondary homeowner, spoke. “I want to point out the fact that so many people coming to your village is not a bad problem to have.” She feels some of the integrity has been lost regarding vendors.
Mayor John Burrell addressed the crowd, thanking them for their input and he had made many notes on the forum and plans to use them to move forward.
Arlene Solly, President of the Chamber Board, spoke about all that Fall Festival does and some of the things many do not see behind the scenes. “Substantial donations are made to many different organizations from the revenue generated from this event and others such as Boy Scouts, Sports Boosters, Volunteer Fire Department, Ski Patrol and the Nannen Arboretum to name a few. This year was the largest and best behaved Fall Festival to date.” Solly joked even if we brought 1 million port-o-johns on we would still have lines and people that urinate in public. “The Chamber allowed less vendors than 2016 and plans to continue reducing and solicit the best possible vendors.”
“This year, the digital signage helped and there will be new shuttle routes for 2018 to alleviate the traffic,” Solly said. “Every year, we do meet to see how we can improve and are very proud of where we have come from over the past five years.”
Last, Dennis Eshbaugh, CEO of Holiday Valley, took the floor. “Thank you Spencer, this was a good meeting; it was positive and proactive,” Eshbaugh directed toward the Village Trustee. “I am proud to be a part of this event and recognize the hard work that Brian, Chris and Barb do over at the Chamber. This event has changed dramatically over the years. Every year, I see more and more people up at Holiday Valley enjoying our views and I think to myself how do I make them my customer. This is something we should all embrace and a challenge I accept.”