HdG Council Rejects Caribbean Music Fest Request

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HAVRE DE GRACE, MD – A Caribbean music festival will be not be held at Concord Point Park this September, after the City Council deadlocked on the issue.

Cherylette Henderson, who lives in the Fields at Rock Glenn, said her organization, One Mind at a Time Foundation, was holding the Caribbean music festival. At first, she hoped to hold it at Festival Park in Aberdeen, but said someone there mixed up the dates and she had to find a new venue at the last minute for Sept. 4. 

"It’s an emergency for me," Henderson told the City Council at its Aug. 15 meeting.

The first day of the festival will still be happening on Sept. 3 at Aberdeen Festival Park, according to Vicki Harter of the city of Aberdeen. She confirmed the park was being used on Sept. 4, which is why Henderson was seeking a second venue for the Sunday of the festival.

“I’m concerned with the short lead-up to it and having the overtime costs associated with it,” Council President Jim Ringsaker said.

Henderson offered to pay the police and department of public works costs and to donate 25 percent of the proceeds from her event to a Havre de Grace nonprofit.

“We make no money off of it,” Henderson said.

However, the vote was 3-3 on whether to allow the event to proceed. Ringsaker, Councilman David Martin and Councilwoman Tammy Lynn Schneegas cast the nay votes.

“We’re negotiating at the last minute,” Martin said at the Aug. 15 council meeting, calling it a “very slippery slope when we’re talking about the timeline we’ve established” for special events coming before the council. “Now at the last second we are going to allow these things to happen.”

Ringsaker agreed about the need for more time.

“There are so many red flags,” Ringsaker said, such as the insurance liability form that had Aberdeen rather than Havre de Grace on it. He said the council would be trying to “shoehorn” something in, when other event organizers, like those of the seafood fest, came months in advance. He also said he wanted residents and staff to have Labor Day weekend off, since that was right before the festival season in the city. The following weekend will be the Waterfront Festival.

Ringsaker suggested using the STAR Centre. 

"We wanted that outdoor setting," Henderson said, for the Caribbean feel.

Normally, to host an event at a city park, the organizer has to be a Havre de Grace nonprofit or benefit a nonprofit, according to Councilman Jason Robertson, who said sometimes the city makes exceptions for 5K races. 

He asked for approval of Henderson's request, granted the group partnered with a Havre de Grace nonprofit and provided a certificate of insurance to the city with Havre de Grace on it. 

“It’s unique, it’s new and it’s different, and it will promote tourism in Havre de Grace,” Robertson said.

Councilwoman Casi Boyer added that she wanted the organization to cover the cost of public works and police overtime, to which Henderson had already agreed. 

Mayor William Martin called the situation a "tricky one" and indicated it could set a precedent for other groups.

“I think the city would benefit from this musical festival,” Councilwoman Carolyn Zinner said. “It’s different than anything we’ve had in the past. If they’re willing, again, to cover the expenses and get what we’re asking for, I think some of the concerns are definitely mitigated.”

Despite the concessions, the council was split on the issue, leaving Henderson without a venue for Sept. 4. The council suggested other locations like Hopkins Farm.

The Caribbean Music Fest will be on Saturday, Sept. 3, at Festival Park, 34 N. Philadelphia Blvd., Aberdeen. Tickets are $25. Henderson said bands are flying in from the Virgin Islands and other tropical locations.

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