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10/26/2012 5:16:00 AM
Boulder Junction board considers request to host a blues festival this summer
Town board members have questions, but receptive to the idea

Brian Jopek
of The Lakeland Times

A private investor has offered to assist the Boulder Junction Chamber of Commerce in organizing a blues festival in July 2013.

That was the word given to the town board at its regular meeting Tuesday night by Boulder Junction Realtor Jim Tait, who was at the meeting as a representative of the chamber. 

“The chamber has reviewed this and has voted to go forward with this project  with the approval and blessing of the town board,” he said.

Tait said the chamber is looking at July 13, a Saturday, as the date for the festival with five bands performing at the Boulder Junction baseball field from noon until 10 p.m.

Tait said the stage would be set up in the area of the pitcher’s mound and the outfield area for concession booths and space for concert-goer seating.

“Once the town gives permission and we’d like to work hand-in-hand with the town, we’d [the chamber] go ahead and do up formal contracts...,” he said. “Oversight would be by the Boulder Junction chamber board and the town board to make sure everything was in order.”

Tait said that included everything from a million dollar liability policy (not  taken out by the town) and porta potties.

He said to avoid dual insurance policies, the chamber would be listed as the primary and the investor as the sub-contractor.

“So, I’m asking the town for approval on behalf of the chamber to be able to use the ballpark on July 13.” he said.

Anticipated attendance for the festival is around 1,000.

Town chairman Charles Spencer said the only real question he had pertained to protection of the ball diamond in the event of a rainy day and the possibility of damage occurring.

“Would this organization be able to bond for that?” he asked Tait.

“As far as planting new grasses and so forth? If that’s a condition of the board then we would go ahead and do that,” Tait answered.

He said the chamber is looking at having tents on the ballfield for the event to provide cover for concert-goers, whether it was a hot day or ended up being rainy.

“If we had a downpour of three or four inches of water that just saturated everything, it may be cancelled,” Tait said.

Spencer said a bit of it had leaked around town and that had been the only comment he had received on the blues festival idea. 

“I recall when some of the other music festivals took place here, people were worried that we would have undesirable elements in town and we’d have a lot of police problems and so forth and none of that materialized,” he said.

Spencer reiterated his concern about the grounds. 

“If something were to happen, what is our recourse?” he asked. “That’s the only question I have.”

Tait indicated he understood and mentioned the trouble-free Tall Pines Festival in 2007 and Drums of Ireland event that had been held at the ballpark and the cleanup efforts made after each.

“There has not ever been an issue,” he said.

“I attended both of those events and had a really good time,” Spencer said.

Board member Dennis Reuss wanted to make sure the bond that would be secured by the chamber and the private investor would cover the $6,000 in improvements the town recently spent for things such as an underground watering system.

Board member Denny McGann, who said he sat in on a recent chamber meeting where the festival had been discussed, said he had questions about parking and security.

“We have Jim [Hanson],” McGann said. Hanson is Boulder Junction’s only full-time police officer.

“As far as stretching Jim pretty thin in July the middle of July is busy and for a big event like this we’re always seeking volunteers to help with parking, he said. “Sometimes that doesn’t always come to fruition and puts stress on us.”

McGann asked if additional security help, other than volunteers, had been considered.

Tait answered that two off-duty Vilas County sheriff’s deputies would probably be hired to patrol the grounds that day, they are for the town’s Musky Days.

“We would also have EMTs there,” he said. “Parking would be across the road, in the flats, just like Musky Days.”

Town clerk Lois Smith said the town leases the ballpark from the Department of Natural Resources and the agency would need to be informed and she asked Tait if anything had been done with respect to notifying the DNR of the intent to use the area across from the ballpark for parking. 

“They’ve given us permission in the past to use the flats for parking,” he said. “We’d follow that same procedure.”

Spencer asked about possible financial risk for the chamber.

“The chamber has gone ahead and discussed that and realizes that, you know, there could be a potential loss of $20,000,” Tait said.

He said beverage sales would be handled by the chamber as in past events and when asked by Reuss if there had been a financial statement check on the investor, Tait said that had been discussed.

“That was brought up and we are planning on finishing that,” Tait said.


Minor snag

Spencer asked Tait what the time frame was as far as a decision needed from the town board.

Tait said he’d like to know at the meeting, if possible, because of the timing of band bookings.

“We’ve already lost one because they’ve booked a European tour,” he said. “We’d like to be able to move forward and put contracts together and bring all the pieces so we have a complete picture.”

It was this point that Reuss, a member of the town’s parks and recreation board, brought up that this had not come before the parks board prior to coming to the town board.

“Otherwise, why have a parks board?” he asked.

“Actually, it should have gone to the parks board procedure-wise,” Spencer said. “And I want to make sure we have a guarantee the grounds are protected in the event of damage.”

Other than that, Spencer said, he’s very supportive of the idea.

“There’s just some things we just have to make sure we have lined up,” he said.

“I would have a difficult time approving something tonight without it passing the muster of the parks board,” McGann said. “I think that would be over-reaching.”

After some discussion about when the parks board would meet next and when the matter would come back before the town board, Spencer reassured Tait.

“We’ll expedite it the best we can,” he said.

Brian Jopek may be reached at bjopek@lakelandtimes.com.

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