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St. Paul Park Heritage Days contract needs more work

While the future of St. Paul Park’s annual Heritage Days festival remains undecided, one thing is certain: residents want it to be more family friendly.

Longtime organizer Jim Domeier stepped up to run the festival in 2014, but the Heritage Days, Inc. proprietor and city officials continue to disagree on its direction.

For the last several months, the City Council and Domeier have discussed ways to change the festival, from moving the event off Broadway Avenue and limiting the use of alcohol to ramping up police presence and bringing in new activities.

“I’m open to new ideas,” Domeier said in a recent interview, but remained firm on not wanting to put limitations on alcohol use or move the event.

However, Mayor Keith Franke last week pitched the idea of relocating the event off the city’s main thoroughfare, where patrons are allowed to walk freely with drink in hand, and into nearby Veterans Park.

An increased number of police calls during last year’s event prompted Franke to suggest the idea. He said moving the consumption of alcohol into a fenced-in area off Broadway would both cut back on negative incidents and reduce the amount of police needed.

“This would put a more family-friendly emphasis back on Broadway and we would allow the bars to pull special permits,” Franke said. “It would take away the problems, at least for one year.”

However, council member Sandi Dingle questioned if the large crowd would “trash the park.”

“I just can’t see this working,” Domeier said. “The donations will be way down.”

Domeier added that with the late start to planning the festival he wouldn’t have enough time to meet with bar owners to gather feedback or find out which establishments want to be issued special permits.

Another factor hindering a deal is Domeier’s request for more city funding.

Earlier in 2013, the council unanimously voted to suspend the city’s annual $5,000 donation to Heritage Days because its future was unclear. Now, Domeier is requesting added money from the city, which would allow him to bring in a new carnival.

“We have decided that change is needed to keep this festival alive,” Domeier wrote in his appeal letter to the council. “Our committee is doing this for all the people who enjoy Heritage Days and do not want to see the tradition end, not for the profit that we may get from it.”

Domeier said he is currently in talks with a new carnival vendor that has more kid-friendly activities and rides, but charges approximately $10,000.

Also included in the proposed contract is the stipulation that, if a deal was made, Domeier would run the festival for the next two years, with a third year optional.

Aside from the amended terms and the increased monetary amount requested, the contract, Domeier said, remains the same.

“I think I have a few questions that need to be settled before we move forward,” Domeier said.

“The main one is the money issue,” Franke added.

The council is expected to hold another workshop session to discuss Domeier’s requests before finalizing plans for this year’s event.