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St. Paul Park’s Heritage Days street dance to end earlier

Heritage Days revelers can drink and dance in the street this year — but maybe only until sunset.

The St. Paul Park/Newport Lions Club has agreed to take charge of the Broadway Avenue street dance during the 2014 Heritage Days festival.

While the street dance is the main event of the three-day celebration, it is also a topic of scrutiny as alcohol-related incidents have led to increased police calls.

In an attempt to rein in excessive drinking during the on-street event, the Lions are proposing to get patrons off Broadway Avenue by 9 p.m.

“We want to try to end earlier to help public safety get the area settled down and get the people inside the bars and under control,” Lions Club President John Wright told City Council members last week.

Wright said the club’s proposal is to begin the street dance at 4 p.m., allow the usual street drinking for the evening, stop the music at 8 p.m., and have the street cleared of festival-goers and open to traffic by 9 p.m.

That is much earlier than in past years. In 2013 event-goers drank on Broadway Avenue until 11 p.m.

Mayor Keith Franke, who was in favor of the Lions’ proposal, said allowing traffic on Broadway after the dance will help remind event-goers of the new rules.

“I don’t think it will be hard to enforce the time change,” he said.

St. Paul Park Police Chief Mike Monahan said he thought ending the street dance earlier will help law enforcement better control drinkers.

Franke also said shutting down early would help local bars draw more customers, giving “them a leg up.” Franke owns his namesake bar on Broadway Avenue.

The proposal is still being fine-tuned with the Lions Club, and the City Council will have the final word. Heritage Days is planned for the third weekend in August.

Entertainment for the event has yet to be booked, but Franke said the Heritage Days Planning Committee and Lions Club are expected to “hammer out the details soon.”

“People, I hope, are going to be understanding and realize that we are trying to listen to the citizens,” he added. “At the same time, we’re trying to keep this thing viable and functioning and on such short notice with all the snafus that we’ve had.”

Carnival guarantees at least one ‘large’ ride

Despite the main event lacking a booked musician, Franke said he continues to have productive conversations with the same carnival vendor that former Heritage Days organizer Jim Domeier was working with prior to his departure earlier this year.

During a recent workshop, Franke informed City Council members that if a contract is awarded, the company will guarantee several rides and more family-friendly attractions.

“They will hopefully bring an extra bigger ride and games,” he said. “In talking with them it sounds like they will have more family-friendly and diverse ones with at least one large ride — larger than they have provided in the past.”

The tractor pull, which is typically held on Sunday, is still up in the air.

Aside from the street dance, the Lions also will plan the mud volleyball and horseshoe tournaments, previously organized by Wright’s son-in-law, Mark Duffy.

The City Council has budgeted $5,000 for the event this year, with the city willing to pitch in up to $10,000 if necessary. However, Franke said he hopes with 2014 being “a limbo year,” that the event will become self-sustaining in the future.

“If we have someone take this over long-term, it should become profitable,” he said. “Going forward, I’m hoping we can get to the point where city funds don’t have to be dipped into to host (Heritage Days).”

The Heritage Days Planning Committee is still looking for St. Paul Park residents who are interested in being on the board. Applicants can call City Hall at 651-459-9785 for more information.