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By Ben Orcutt -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- The coordinator of the Front Royal Celtic Festival says he was taken aback after some Town Council members expressed concerns about this year's event during a Monday work session.
"I was blindsided by this," Michael Turner said Wednesday. "I had no idea that there'd be negativity. It shocked me."
Turner said Councilman Thomas E. Conkey came to his defense.
"The first thing he said was I don't see why you guys are grilling the guy like this," Turner said of Conkey. "It's kind of rude. It was rude and it was offensive. I don't know these people. I'm just a citizen in the area trying to do something positive for the town."
The Town Council has a request on its Monday agenda from Turner to allow the use the common area by the gazebo for the third annual festival slated from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on June 18.
In that regard, Turner is trying to rally as many people as possible to attend Monday's meeting to speak in support of the Celtic festival being downtown.
"There's alcohol, but it's not a drunkfest and we're going to make sure it doesn't get out of hand," Turner said. "The point is, again, the positive, the dancing, the music, tremendous heritage here in this area of the Celtics."
Turner said the event is family-oriented, and the charge is $5 per person or $25 for an entire family, which can be loosely defined.
"So we need some more family-friendly festivals," he said. "This is a great town. We need more things that are good for families here. And that's why we're doing this. It's not a personal venture. We're becoming a nonprofit. We're in the process."
Last year's event lost money, Turner said, with him personally taking the hit to the tune of more than $1,400. He said this year's event will benefit Scots for Tots, an organization that promotes children's health, according to its website.
"But it makes sense to be in the middle of town," Turner said of the festival. "Eventually we'll outgrow that area, which is fine. It's still small. So the town, in my opinion, should be an incubator for these things, these positive, small, little family festivals."
Turner said the first festival attracted 1,000 people, and last year's event drew 4,000 to downtown.
Councilman Thomas H. Sayre supports the festival.
"The Celtic festival is a family-friendly, educational festival and the merchants will have the ability to have sidewalk sales during the festival," Sayre said.
However, Mayor Timothy W. Darr and Councilmen Carson C. Lauder Jr. and N. Shae Parker have some concerns.
Lauder said he thinks there perhaps should be a permitting process for festivals.
"It's like the vendors," Lauder said. "You have to have a permitting process to allow them to do what they need to do and you also need a permitting process for a festival, regardless of size, to come in and perhaps the permit fee should be structured along the lines the bigger the festival, the more revenue generated, the more the fee should be on the sliding scale because it's going to take more work force through police and cleaning up afterwards."
Darr was like-minded.
"I think overall the town needs to, we need to look at a policy or rules, put something into effect that will maintain and support the whole festival activity thing," Darr said. "My biggest concern is it impedes on parking and some things in the downtown area."
Darr suggested there are other places the festival could consider, such as Gertrude E. Miller Park or the former middle school on 15th Street.
"It's not that I'm anti-Celtic festival," Darr said. "It's just the proper thing is to put it in the proper place so we don't impede the businesses downtown, so we don't impede the farmers' market, so we allow people to park their vehicles when they come to downtown Front Royal on a Saturday."
Parker spoke in a similar vein in a Wednesday e-mail.
"The Gertrude E. Miller Park adjacent to Bing Crosby Stadium would be a very suitable location with ample parking and other amenities which are not available at the Gazebo location," Parker said. "Another option would be the former Warren County Middle School on 15th Street, which houses Zuckerman Field. This football stadium and track which surrounds it, is used by other organization(s) ... and includes ample parking and could also make a desirable location."