Chapel Hill's other festivals in for scrutiny

Staff WriterApril 25, 2006 

  • Council members agreed to fund $40,000 in improvements to the skateboard park and batting cage at Homestead Park. They also hired Aloha II Inc. to operate the facility. Patrons of the skate park had pressed the council to keep the park open and find a professional to run it.

— Town leaders will look at ways to curtail or possibly eliminate the Festifall and Halloween events downtown in the wake of the decision to cancel the Apple Chill spring festival.

Mayor Pro Tem Bill Strom floated the idea Monday night, less than two hours after the Town Council voted unanimously to stick the worm in Apple Chill after three people were hurt in shootings Sunday night.

Strom wants to see the events "more local, smaller in scale and meeting community-building goals." Either that, or he wants to see options for ending the fairs.

Festifall is a town-sponsored event similar to Apple Chill, although it has not been plagued with the same crime problems.

Halloween is not a town event. It was treated for years as a "spontaneous" celebration, until several years ago when the town decided to begin organizing the annual party.

All three celebrations, which draw tens of thousands of people and cost tens of thousands of dollars to manage, were studied in 2003. A committee recommended all three, in part on the grounds that they are part of what make Chapel Hill unique.

Council member Mark Kleinschmidt made that case Monday.

"I don't have any interest in ending these festivals," he said. "These are wonderful events that give the town character."

Council member Sally Greene noted that she and her colleagues all had gotten much e-mail urging them to end Apple Chill after Sunday's violence.

"But I got a couple saying, essentially, 'Don't throw the baby out with the bath water,' " Greene said. "It would be really great to change the whole context of [Festifall] so it really is an arts fair."

Staff members will return to the council with an assessment of the social and financial costs of the fairs and options for changing them or ending them.

Staff writer Matt Dees can be reached at 932-8760 or matt.dees@newsobserver.com.

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