ELLINWOOD — The Ellinwood Chamber of Commerce’s outgoing director Jacque Isern, newly appointed director Michele Martin, and members of the board of directors were on the agenda of the Ellinwood City Council meeting Tuesday, March 13. They came with their annual request for use of city facilities for the 2018 After Harvest Festival to be held July 19-22. They also discussed improving security at the Saturday night dance, hoping to avoid a repeat of an altercation that occurred at the dance last year.
According to Chamber Board of Directors member Justin Nash, one male patron was harassing a female patron at the dance, which eventually resulted in her companion and the harasser coming to blows. Members of the Sidewinders motorcycle club operating the beer garden witnessed the incident escalating, and attempted to locate law enforcement, but were unable to before the fight broke out.
Speaking on behalf of the Chamber, Nash noted that, other than the one incident, last year’s After Harvest Festival overall was a success.
“But, one incident is one too many,” he added. “If there are any security concerns, anything we need to address or work together on, we want to make sure we keep it a safe and fun event for everyone.”
City Manager Chris Komarek first briefly went over the first part of the Chamber’s request, noting that all the planned activities including the food court, the carnival, community barbecue, ice cream social, contests, family fun fair, and kids tractor pull would take place in the Ellinwood City Park. Foot races and the After Harvest Festival parade would require the use of designated streets, and, hopefully, the duck pond will be available for a kids fishing derby and enough softball teams will commit to hold a tournament at Worman Field on Saturday. Last year, an outbreak of blue-green algae shut down the pond, and too few teams signed up.
The request included permission for the consumption of cereal malt beverages in the park as in the past. That led to the second half of the request. Komarek asked for input from City Attorney Bob Peter and Ellinwood Chief of Police Art Keffer. They reviewed how people attending the Saturday night concert and dance gained entry to the park and the beer garden, and considered ways to improve security and ensure those in attendance were properly wrist-banded and identification checked to better police alcohol consumption at the event.
In a nutshell, access to the dance and concert area is fenced, with gates at the west side by the food court, the south side, and the east side. There is also an additional gate to the beer garden inside the fenced area. People entering at the west have to travel through the beer garden to get to the dance.
In order to provide adequate security and a deterrence for illegal activity like underage drinking, it was decided three additional uniformed officers would be hired for the Saturday night event, and would be stationed at each of the outside entrances to the dance. Komarek said last year, the city provided law enforcement, and spent an additional $900 to hire Sheriff’s Reserve Officers or Deputies for the event. He estimated it would cost an additional $300-$400 to hire an additional three officers for the dance.
Nash also asked if radios could be provided to the Sidewinders and to the Chamber in order to request officer assistance if needed. Keffer agreed.
The city council approved the Chamber’s request for use of city facilities for the 2018 After Harvest Festival, and authorized the expense of $400 to hire additional officers for Saturday and provide police radios to the Chamber and the Sidewinders for that event.