Festival Almost Caused a Mutiny

Festival Almost Caused a Mutiny

For a while, it looked like the arrival of the Godspeed was going to cause a mutiny in Old Town — not from exhausted sailors or a power-mad captain, but from homeowners around Founders Park.

When members of the Founders Park Community Association found out that the city manager recommended that a 12-day festival in the park with an estimated 3,000 visitors a day, homeowners revolted. In a contentious January meeting at City Hall, members of the association faced down City Council members and the city manager to voice their frustration with the planning process.

“One resident told me that this plan is as good for the residents as the arrival of the original Godspeed was for the original residents,” said Jim Dorsch, president of the Founders Park Community Association, during a January public hearing. “That may be an exaggeration, but that’s what you are creating.”

The thought of thousands of people traipsing through the waterfront park for days on end worried homeowners, who feared that the scenic green would be ruined. To hear their concerns, the city scheduled a special public hearing at the Radisson Hotel to listen to residents and suggest an alternative.

“We heard you in terms of reducing the length of the event,” said Kirk Kincannon, director of the city’s Department of Recreation Parks and Cultural Activities, during the February meeting. “So we are proposing a 10-day schedule.”

The city also decided to spread out the footprint of the festival, using part of Founders Park, part of Waterfront Park and the public area along the waterfront at the Torpedo Factory. By the time a new plan was presented to the City Council the following week, Councilwoman Joyce Woodson said that the reduced schedule was not needed because of the new layout — especially since part of the takedown would take place during a weekend, when many tourists would be wandering through Old Town.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me to have a takedown on a weekend,” Woodson said during a Feb. 14 meeting. “It seems like a waste.”

Woodson suggested extending the event to the original 12-day schedule, with two weekends included for visitors to see the Godspeed docked at Founders Park. The final plan slated the festival for May 25 to June 5 (eight event days and four set-up and take-down days), including several public spaces: the use of the southern end of Founder’s Park, the City Marina, King Street Park, a portion of the lower King Street unit block and Waterfront Park.