By Mary Spicer

MEADVILLE TRIBUNE

So how much lead time does it really take to organize a successful outdoor event in Meadville?

That’s one of the questions members of Meadville City Council will be mulling in early 2008 as they attempt to update the city’s municipal code governing parades and public assemblies.

Article 741 of the Meadville Municipal Code governs all parades and gatherings upon any of Meadville’s streets or public parks or places, including Diamond Park and its historic Gazebo.

The latest draft version of the revised ordinance specifies that the application seeking a parade, public assembly or Diamond Park Gazebo permit must be filed no less than seven days and no more than 30 days before the event. That means that someone wanting to book the gazebo for a June 30 wedding or Chestnut Street for a parade on the same day, for example, would not be able to submit an application for a permit before June 1 or after June 24. The draft version of the revised ordinance also indicates that permits will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis.

The current ordinance requires applications to be submitted no less than seven and no more than 90 days before the event.

When council members discussed the draft revision during their recent work session, City Manager Joe Chriest and City Clerk Janet Niedermeyer agreed there may be some problems with the 30-day limit.

City Controller Richard Stephenson, who attended the study session, wholeheartedly agreed. “Thirty days is not enough,” he said, drawing on his own experience organizing veterans-related observances at the Diamond.

For Nancy Manning, executive director of Meadville Council on the Arts and an experienced organizer of major outdoor events in the area, 30 days — one month — isn’t even close to what the logistics of a major event require.

“That’s just not enough time to have a successful event,” she said Friday. “You need six to nine months, six being the least and nine being a cushion. In lining up entertainment and vendors, they need to know where they’re going to be.”

Manning is already hard at work on the Second Annual Rotary Ethnic Festival, which will take place in the Diamond Park area Sept. 6 and 7, 2008. In fact, her permit application has already been submitted and approved.

“I’ve got letters going out in January for crafters and food vendors, letting them know the dates and that applications will be following,” she said. “These people are deciding where they want to go and filling up their calendars for this summer and the fall. A lot of time, where the location is determines if a vendor will come. Thirty days just would not work.”

Councilman Leroy Stearns, who has gained outdoor-event-planning experience of his own as head of Crawford County Humane Society, agreed, but for a darker reason. If events were advertised before the permits could be issued, “people could intentionally block things,” he observed.



Checking the record

An examination of the approved applications on file in the City Clerk’s office for events taking place in 2007 revealed that two-thirds of applications were filed outside the proposed more-than-seven-and-less-than-30-day limit. Seven applications were filed less than seven days in advance and 37 came in more than 30 days before their events. Those exceeding the proposed 30-day limit arrived as much as 237 days in advance, averaging 84 days.

A total of 17 percent of the 65 applications approved were filed even earlier than current time limits allow. The 11 applications coming in more than 90 days in advance were received an average of 150 days before their events.

The three weddings taking place in the Diamond Park Gazebo were booked between 44 and 58 days in advance.



Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at mspicer@meadvilletribune.com.

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