Why make an easy decision when you can waste taxpayer time and money just to make the same decision in two weeks?
On Thursday night, the Fresno City Council took up the issue of Grizzly Fest 2018. The local music festival sought a special event license agreement that would bring Snoop Dogg, Nas, Foster the People and a dozen other musical acts to northeast Fresno’s Woodward Park on May 18-19. The proposed agreement would allow Grizzly Fest to stage live music until midnight – two hours after the city’s noise ordinance currently allows.
It was a slam-dunk proposal that organizers say would bring $2 million to the city and its businesses, as well as sense of community and pride in a festival that could eventually put Fresno on the map for music-lovers. Grizzly Fest has operated without incident for four years, and its promoter, Aren Hekimian, goes through great pains every year to keep it a cheap, local event — when he could make more money in other cities.
If Grizzly Fest goes well and meets the city’s satisfaction, Hekimian would bring a second festival to the park in October.
And yet, the council voted 5-2 to continue the hearing for two weeks, with Council President Esmeralda Soria and Councilman Paul Caprioglio casting the dissenting votes.
A subcommittee will now be formed, consisting of Councilmen Garry Bredefeld, Clint Olivier and Luis Chavez, to meet with the Grizzly Fest promoters and city staff to “find some sort of solution that’s good for both sides.”
Bredefeld suggested the idea — and maybe the council voted with him to exercise prudence and caution.
However, that decision costs money. Your money. My money. We are spending money to fund discussions on a no-brainer event that has successfully grown without incident for four years, bringing in national entertainment acts and attracting music lovers from outside the city.
And who knows what could happen. Larger promoters are watching our homegrown festival and how our city handles it. Companies like Live Nation have exclusive rights to the biggest acts in the world, and they may not want to share them with an event that has a history of being mired in red tape. Negotiations for next year’s Grizzly Fest have already started.
The people of northeast Fresno, my neighbors for 22 years and counting, have every right to voice their opinion. They’ve had over a month to do so. And the city has had even longer, as it met with the promoters for five months planning out the various logistics that went into Grizzly Fest’s final proposal – security, parking, access for vendors and performers, etc.
$100,000Councilman Paul Caprioglio said the Grizzly Fest promoters plan to donate $100,000 to the city’s PARCS program.
But the event is far from the only one bringing noise and traffic to Woodward Park.
Hekimian noted Fresno Taco Fest featured live music and food vendors just three months ago without any complaint after the fact.
The park also hosts the massive state high school cross country championship meet and routinely fills to the brim during holiday weekends. Has anyone called their councilman to demand we cancel Easter?
On Thursday, Hekimian once again explained to the council the reasons behind the Woodward Park booking.
Venues with nearby tall buildings and overhangs, such as the event’s previous location, Chukchansi Park, are now seen as security risks after a gunman killed 59 people and wounded more than 800 at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas last year.
Beyond that, Hekimian said, the best festivals across the country are almost always held in the host city’s best park.
Much of the apparent public ire has centered around Snoop Dogg. The festival’s critics have questioned whether they want Snoop Dogg performing in their nice, clean park after 10 p.m. He’s clearly the most recognizable name on the lineup, but many have failed to mention even one other act in their complaints.
This does a disservice to the rest of lineup, which is stacked with talent across a half-dozen genres, but it also smacks of prejudice.
We’re OK with Foster the People, the event’s all-white co-headliner, and their “Pumped Up Kicks” playing their loud indie rock, but Snoop Dogg? He should play downtown. The man is hip-hop’s kindly older brother. He’s 46, a grandfather, and he hosts a cooking show with Martha Stewart. But he – and only he – should play downtown.
So vote. Every member of the council knows the score.
On the one side, there are concerns about noise, traffic and all of us undesirables who would love to hang out with Snoop Dogg, Nas and Foster the People.
On the other, it’s whether Fresno wants to be a destination for music lovers, give its residents something unique to do and support an entertainment and economic engine. According to Caprioglio, the event will net the city $100,000 plus a slice of whatever the around 15,000 attendees spend on gas, food and lodging. The organizers clock that at around $2 million in total gains for Fresno and its businesses.
15,000expected attendance for Grizzly Fest 2018
If the concerns of a few neighborhoods outweigh the 15,000 people itching to attend a first-rate music festival in our nicest park, then fine. Vote on it. Don’t waste more time and money discussing it.
The choice seems pretty simple to me. I want a music festival. Most of Fresno wants a music festival. And anyone who can’t deal with a little noise for a few days is welcome to go antiquing in Cambria that weekend. It’s lovely in May.
This is an important time. Fresno has long suffered as the little brother of larger cities and even smaller cities in California. It’s as much a mindset issue as anything. We are that way because we believe there’s nothing to do in Fresno. We have to drive three hours to do anything fun.
Our elected officials can help.
But don’t just take it from me. Listen to someone who’s dealt with Fresno event planning from both the city and promotional side.
Amy Fuentes, a former city employee and the current manager of the Fresno Food Expo, lives directly across Highway 41 from Woodward Park. She voiced her support for Grizzly Fest at the Fresno City Council meeting.
“I’ve seen cities way less dynamic than ours host these great events that bring in people from out of the area,” she said in an interview. The events “put those cities on the map even though they aren’t as cool as we are.”
Fuentes said she went to last year’s festival while eight months pregnant and did not encounter any of the “riff-raff” those opposing this year’s event have referenced.
The mother of two young children also noted that she puts up with 6 a.m. start times during the state’s track meet without feeling the need to call her council member, as she realizes it provides an economic benefit. Everyone who moved into her neighborhood and the surrounding areas had to know that occasional noise was part of the deal, she added.
“Food and music events bring life to a city,” she said. “Music festivals are great things for cities to have, and we’re lucky to have Aren as a promoter. He cares about Fresno. Another promoter from out of town would not put up with this.”
Makes sense to me.