2 commissioners oppose shutting down street for Harvest Festival.

September 8, 2015
The ox roast is one of the traditional events of the festival.

The ox roast is one of the traditional events of the festival.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

SCOTTVILLE — The Scottville Harvest Festival came under scrutiny during tonight’s city commission meeting with two commissioners voting against approving a street closure to hold this year’s annual event.

The commission was asked by the Scottville Harvest Festival committee to close South Main Street at 5 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015 to Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015.

Commissioner Don Pasco, who owns The Bottle and Can liquor store on South Main Street, said he lost a lot of business during last year’s festival.

“It shuts down my business and other businesses for those four days,” Pasco said. “… my sales dropped dramatically. I’m frustrated because that’s a long time and the summer is short as it is. I just feel we are taking a lot of money out of Scottville to do this.”

He said a lot of the reasons for the loss in business was because his customers did not have access to parking near the store. He said a car show and a farmers’ market in parking lot blocked parking spots behind his business while the carnival blocked parking on the front of the store.

“I like the Harvest Festival, I want it to continue,” Pasco said. “I would like it where people could park by my store.”

City Manager Amy Williams told Pasco that the farmers’ market will be held at Miller’s Market Place on North Main Street this year. The car show will still happen, but only on Thursday night.

Pasco and Commissioner Ed Hahn both voted against approving the street closure.

“It isn’t detrimental to have it,” Hahn said. “Don’t punish the businesses because of tradition.

“If you want to hold it, hold it in the parking lot or hold it at MacPhail Field,” Hahn said. “It doesn’t benefit my business. It’s a lost cause.” (This quote was originally attributed to Pasco by mistake.)

Williams said the city’s parking lots do not have the capacity to hold the carnival and hold parking for the attendees at the same time. She noted that much of the west parking lot is private property owned by West Shore Bank and by the Scottville Optimist Club. She said the first block of South Main Street, commonly referred to as downtown, was redesigned a few years ago with electrical infrastructure in place to hold events, including the harvest festival.

Pasco said the festival vendors, particularly food vendors, compete against Scottville restaurants and the entertainment tent takes away business from the bar.

Roy Holden, owner of Holden’s Home Emporium furniture store was in attendance and agreed with Pasco that the festival hurts his business and he wouldn’t be opposed to seeing it discontinue.

Williams said contracts for the carnival are signed in November of the previous year. Commissioner Ann Genson said not holding the festival this year wasn’t an option because of the contracts that have been signed with the carnival and other entities, such as the bands at the entertainment tent.

“At this point there’s nothing to be done with this year’s harvest festival,” Genson said. “I think what has to happen here is we need to strike a middle ground. The harvest festival has been around forever. It isn’t what it used to be and that’s OK because Scottville isn’t what it used to be. The world isn’t what it used to be. We need to find a way to make it benefit what we are now.”

Genson suggested that the harvest festival committee review this year’s festival immediately after it is done and start coming up with suggestions on how it can benefit downtown businesses. She also suggested the businesses need to also be more proactive to take advantage of the festival while it is going on.

“We need to make it a quality experience for our businesses. Ludington does Friday Nigh Live and I don’t think the businesses suffer. I think they make money even though there are food trucks out on the street. Granted, it is only for four hours and only on Friday night, but it’s for four weeks in a row. Maybe our restaurants have to have their own food wagons.”

Commissioner Connie Duncil recalled a few years ago when the festival committee discussed not holding a carnival and several people came forward to complain.

The tradition of a Scottville festival dates back to the early 1900s. The ox roast, which accompanies the festival, began in 1910 as a celebration of the paving of the streets. The Harvest Festival was started in the 1930s as a way for the merchants to thank people who shopped Scottville. In the 1970s the entertainment tent was added as a fund raiser for the Scottville Fire Department. For many years, proceeds of the tent helped fund the purchase of equipment, such as fire trucks. Though the fire department no longer organizes the tent, it is still involved and still receives a stipend for its help setting up the tent and performing security duties.

The festival will be held Thursday, Sept. 17 through Saturday, Sept. 19.

The vote passed 4-2 to close South Main Street during the festival. Commissioner David Johnson was absent. 

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