Residents angry over July 3 concert move - Morgan Hill Times: Community

Residents angry over July 3 concert move

Independence Day organizers say problems related to drinking, safety have grown at street dance

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Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2012 5:36 pm | Updated: 9:48 am, Fri Jun 29, 2012.

With the new location of Morgan Hill’s beloved annual July 3 Street Dance finalized, downtown merchants are up in arms about the likely resulting decline in sales, residents decry the usurpation of a “tradition,” and some are upset that the event organizers seem unwilling to work with those who enjoy the festivities and would help reduce the problems that have grown with the annual street party.  

Organizers of Morgan Hill’s annual Independence Day Freedom Fest fireworks, parade and related festivities started talking about moving one of the holiday’s favorite events – the July 3 Street Dance – to another venue and renaming it months ago. But when the new location – the city’s Community and Cultural Center – became official in recent weeks it whipped downtown merchants and residents into a frenzy. 

The merchants, represented by the Morgan Hill Downtown Association, scrambled in an effort to reverse the change by helping to circulate a petition and spreading the word to supporters of the longtime street venue. 

Teri Schindler, owner of the Raggedy Heart gift shop, decried the IDC’s decision to make the move as merchants “struggle” and the organization’s failure to communicate with downtown tenants and owners. 

“It’s one more thing to deter downtown from succeeding,” Schindler said. “We weren’t even in on the discussion. It’s frustrating. We love what we do in Morgan Hill and we want to stay, but this is just one more piece of the rug pulled out from under us.” 

She added that if the IDC had asked them, the merchants could have offered ideas and help to pull off the event and reduce expected problems. The petition being circulated, she said, shows that moving the street dance to the community center is “not favored by the people who make the town.” 

Some business owners reported filling several pages of the petition with signatures, though a final tally of signers couldn’t be cited by press time. 

There’s no doubt they have vocalized the issue, but the new venue for the newly dubbed “Family Music Fest” will be the new host of this year’s July 3 concert. 

The best the IDC and MHDA can do is start talking now about the possibility of bringing the event back to the streets next year, and perhaps even place the merchants in charge, according to IDC president Charles Weston. He plans to meet with representatives of the merchants in the coming days in order to begin that discussion. 

For the past 15 years the July 3 Street Dance has taken place on Monterey Road, between Second and Third streets, with the entire street from Dunne to Main avenues closed down for the public party. 

The IDC wanted to move it this year because it has grown too large and rowdy, with alcohol consumption seemingly on the rise each year, and the expense and effort of cleaning up the mess in time for the next morning’s parade – which takes place on the same streets – becoming an increasing burden for the limited staff of IDC volunteers. 

If those opposed to the change of venue could see the behind-the-scenes cleanup of vomit, beer cans, urine and other work associated with the street dance, they would likely support it, Weston suggested. 

“We felt like it wasn’t representing the nature of what we’re trying to celebrate, which is freedom,” Weston said. “Maybe it’s becoming more of a drunk-fest. We wanted to kind of reel it back a little bit. It wasn’t intended to slam on the merchants who happen to make a profit mostly selling alcohol. The problem was we didn’t see it as what the Freedom Fest committee was trying to portray.” 

The IDC member in charge of the July 3 event for the last 15 years, Dennis Dal Poggetto, declined to comment on this year’s change of venue to the Times. But he wrote on the Freedom Fest’s Facebook page, in reply to criticism posted by another resident, that the street dance “needs a revamping, a look at safety, volunteer participation, downtown input, finances, sponsorship.”

He added that Independence Day is “not about commercialism.” 

“Over the last 3-4 years the event has taken on a different look, something we all enjoy but not quite in the spirit of our men & women who have served this country and paid the ultimate price for our freedom,” Dal Poggetto’s Facebook comment says. 

But merchants at an MHDA board meeting Wednesday said each of the cited problems can be minimized. The communication that the IDC did offer, they added, was vague and evasive, with the reasons for the change constantly changing themselves.

“Every time we offer (ways to) mitigate an issue, they come up with another issue,” said BookSmart owner Brad Jones. 

The Candy Parlour owner Chris Reynolds said he received a letter from the IDC in January, one side of which referred to the “July 3 Street Dance,” with the schedule on the reverse side listing a “Freedom Concert” in that time slot instead. The letter did not refer to a change of venues. 

Other reasons given for the change include expenses associated with hiring professional cleaners to mop up the mess, revelers loitering long after the event ended at 11 p.m., and the logistics of attempting to control the sprawling crowd. 

The merchants suggested possible solutions to all of these problems at Wednesday’s meeting: Raise the price of beer sold at IDC’s beverage tents; hire local, less expensive contractors to clean the streets; enlist downtown volunteers who have already offered to help the clean the streets. 

Several times the merchants suggested the root of the issue is the IDC’s insular, self-protective mindset. 

“The three or four people (in charge of the street dance) want to be autonomous, and now they got burned out,” Schindler said. 

But Weston suggested the IDC has learned from the recent dust-up that they need to train new volunteers for future Independence Day celebrations, and perhaps even enlist groups of volunteers or other organizations – such as the MHDA – to take charge of certain parts of the celebration. 

Organizers added the Freedom Fest committee is an all-volunteer entity that relies significantly on donations from the community and sponsors for financial feasibility. They spend the entire 12 months preceding the annual holiday preparing for the next one, and next year’s soiree is also funded by entry fees for the bike classic, parade entries, and other events. 

The cost to conduct the festivities is about $140,000, Weston said. 

“And we do it all for free,” Weston said. 

Morgan Hill resident Bob Matts, 47, said he was so furious when he learned the street dance was moving that he decided not to donate cash to the IDC as he has in previous years. A 19-year resident, he has attended the street dance, fireworks and parade almost every year. 

He won’t attend this summer’s July 3 concert at the community center, he said. 

“There’s no way they’re going to fit everybody at the community center. Last year it was packed” downtown, he said. “It’s going to kill the Fourth of July spirit.” 

Morgan Hill resident and M & H Tavern bar tender Bob Allman, 55, said the downtown venue, where the “hallowed ground” of the First Street veterans memorial is found, is a “tradition.” 

Tavern owner Susan Hall has said in recent weeks that July 3 and 4 are among the bar’s busiest days of the year, and she thought moving the concert venue would cripple other downtown merchants who also see higher sales on those days. 

Downtown restaurateur Art Nazzal, owner of Mr. Falafel, said July 3 last year was “one of my biggest events.” He thinks the city and those involved in promoting the city should be more active in promoting the downtown and ensuring it is an active, thriving place. 

“Morgan Hill is a family environment. When one person falls, everybody in Morgan Hill is there to pick them up. But it seems like nobody is here to support the downtown,” Nazzal said. “There’s a lot of different things that Morgan Hill should be doing to make the downtown better, but they keep taking things away.” 

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  • cbryant posted at 10:11 pm on Sun, Jun 10, 2012.

    cbryant Posts: 1

    Well... If you don't you think new blood is needed on these committees then volunteer! This is 100% run by volunteers that donate their time and get zero pay. They often donate cash and materials as well.
    It annoys me to no end when people feel they can complain, but when groups like this need volunteers to help cleanup or to put on the event, they are no where to be found. Cash donations are nice and very helpful, but all the cash in the world means nothing if people are not willing to step up and actually put in the hours of time necessary to put on events like this.

    Also, last I looked, the CCC is down town. I don't understand why people can go to a shopping center, like the outlets in Gilroy, and walk a mile to visit the various shops but ask them to walk an extra hundred yards from parking or to peruse the downtown shops, and they find it impossible. Why does it require a special event for you to take an hour or two and wander through downtown Morgan Hill, browse the shops and eat at the restaurants? Yes, the downtown does not have as many shops as the outlets or a large shopping mall, but it is nice to wander and explore what is there, and it is good exercise.

    Also, the City is making it incredibly expensive to do anything that requires a street closure. I see the use of the CCC for the July 3rd as a good thing. There is actually more room for people to sit and enjoy the show as well as a better sound environment without having to deal with the mess that attendees invariably leave on the private property bordering the old location.

  • reality_bites posted at 9:04 am on Wed, Jun 6, 2012.

    reality_bites Posts: 1

    Isn't partying and celebrating with our downtown businesses patriotic? Isn't having a good ole fashioned street party what America is about? Do we need to have another posh event at the CCC? The venue is so closed off and dare I say a bit boring. Sounds like IDC needs to be a good ole fashioned American and talk to their neighbors and involve the community. I am getting tired of events moving out of the downtown area for the exclusive CCC. It is not fun and doesn't promote the downtown. The CCC is not the downtown.

  • sharks posted at 10:47 pm on Tue, Jun 5, 2012.

    sharks Posts: 11

    Maybe the IDC should take a look at how Willow Glen does there steer dance . Hey Morgan Hill you should move the taste of Morgan Hill to Gilroy since you moved everthing else .

  • ahkmed posted at 9:42 pm on Tue, Jun 5, 2012.

    ahkmed Posts: 4

    That is sooo stupid!!
    I will not donate another penny either!

  • cowtipper posted at 5:58 pm on Tue, Jun 5, 2012.

    cowtipper Posts: 1

    "If those opposed to the change of venue could see the behind-the-scenes cleanup of vomit, beer cans, urine and other work associated with the street dance, they would likely support it, Weston suggested. "

    So let's have the same crowd trash the triple C, that makes sense ... not! How about dealing with the root cause instead of pushing the problem to a new location?

  • sharks posted at 8:49 pm on Sun, Jun 3, 2012.

    sharks Posts: 11

    Maybe it's time for a change in the IDC. I lived in Morga Hill for 13 years and have donated for the last 10 years to the IDC . I don't understand why everything moves from downtown ? Maybe Denniis should step down . Let's get new blood in the IDC.

  • mhresident27 posted at 1:56 pm on Sun, Jun 3, 2012.

    mhresident27 Posts: 1

    I am not surprised by the comments that the IDC is insular. My family and a few friends find them aloof and somewhat stand-offish and definitely cliquish after two attempts to volunteer.

    It is no wonder that the volunteer pool is shrinking and the "four" people are burning out. Maintaining a "clique" is not the way to run such an event.

    When my children were old enough, my family and friends took our kids to volunteer one year intending it to become an annual community service event. When we arrived, instead of someone meeting us and talking us through where to help and what to do, a bunch of people stood around and gave us "strangers' stares" like we did not belong. There was not a sense of warmth or community spirit. We had to basically walk up to everyone and started asking who was in charge and where could we pitch in and the replies were halting and cool or nothing but a stare. The folks in the kitchen all acted like they were too busy to bother. When my children finally got to help in one area, they told us afterwards that the adults were generally dead silent and quiet and kept to themselves. Wow, how "patriotic" and what a way to celebrate "freedom" or "family". May be we are just not the "right" kind of people. It was a totally different atmosphere than other local volunteer events.

    My wife was born and raised here and I married and moved here 30 years ago and have been watching this town grow and change and have volunteered locally year after year and never have we felt more "ostracized" than that one single experience trying to volunteer at the IDC. After a second trial with the same result the following year, we quit trying. We just send them a few dollars of donation to help them out

    IDC needs to grow up and mature and know what it means to be a "Community" Service Organization. It means a community of local residents and merchants and kids, not a tiny clique of "good old boys and gals".

  • thermopylae posted at 7:16 am on Sun, Jun 3, 2012.

    thermopylae Posts: 41

    This is classic Morgan Hill political thinking. "We" have all the power and "We" do not need to consider what the citizens want. They always vote for u"Us' anyways so "We" can do what "We" want. "We" know what is best for them.

    They change the name from The 4th of July and Independence Day to "Freedom Day". Then they change where the celebrations is going to be held because the criminals they cater to cause problems during these events.

    It is time to give "Freedom Day" a new meaning and change that day to election day.

  • Calle posted at 3:18 pm on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    Calle Posts: 64

    Who would stand to gain the most by moving the dance? Perhaps food and beer vendors who want to set up way from competition? To get to the truth just follow the money.

  • fredoliveri posted at 11:17 am on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    fredoliveri Posts: 285

    Of course. people can walk to the triple C but this is more of what a small group can dictate to the downtown merchants who support the July 3 function. They are those most effective by the decision without any real feedback from the merchants. Amazing some businesses do not throw up their hands and just leave. It must get tiresome getting stepped on.

  • GrammaPony posted at 4:52 am on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    GrammaPony Posts: 2

    I think that people attending the concert at Monterey & Dunne can walk the few blocks to the downtown eateries and shops. In past years the downtown businesses have complained about the crowd blocking the entrances to their establishments. At the triple C there is a lawn area that concert goers can sit on and be comfortable, their kids can run around and play without worry they may run out onto Monterey Road. I applaud the change.

  • Rikard Kilgaren posted at 10:17 pm on Fri, Jun 1, 2012.

    Rikard Kilgaren Posts: 46

    Over time, the wishes of this community have been trampled on unmercifully. The autocratic attitude fostered by the City Manager and the City Council should not be surprising to anyone.

    There is a term called “management!” If the IDC wants the job, they should be willing to accept the will of the residents – which, in un-scientific poll by the Morgan Hill Times – indicates that greater than 70% of the Citizens of Morgan Hill think the Street Dance – a Morgan Hill Tradition – should be held on Monterey Highway – right where it has historically been, and manage the situation! But no, the IDC is telling the citizenry they are going to give it to the citizens and you – the citizens - are going to like it – but you won’t get a kiss! Exactly as the City Management has (City manager and Council) been doing for over years.

    And, why shouldn’t the IDC do what they are doing? None of the Citizens of Morgan Hill will confront the City Manager and the City Council regarding the continued stupidity in City management. The bureaucrats do what they want, when they want, and we – the taxpayer – as far as the bureaucrats are concerned can just rot in the lower regions.

    The best one yet – one of the IDC folks declines to make a statement for The Morgan Hill Times – I guess the Times is not good enough for a member of the IDC – he has to post it on Facebook – “Dennis Dal Poggetto, declined to comment on this year’s change of venue to the Times. But he wrote on the Freedom Fest’s Facebook [what is a Freedom Fest and who ordained my Independence Day Celebration a “FREESOM FEST?”] page, in reply to criticism posted by another resident, that the street dance “needs a revamping, a look at safety, volunteer participation, downtown input, finances, sponsorship.” And, Dal Pogetto (whomever this person is) goes on to state “Over the last 3-4 years the event has taken on a different look, something we all enjoy but not quite in the spirit of our men & women who have served this country and paid the ultimate price for our freedom.” Not sure about Dal Poggetto, but all my military friends like to dance and have a few beers.

    What a pompous self serving member of the IDC Dennis Dal Poggetto is! Perhaps he is related to Emperor Tewes.

    Bring Bruce back! Bring the Street Dance back to Monterey Highway, Bruce would!

    Boycott the events to be held at the Cultural Center – force this ridiculous front of a civic organization – the IDC – to conform to the will of the people. And, do the same with the all City bureaucrats.

    The citizens are the Government – the Council, the City Manager and the IDC are bureaucrats – they are NOT THE GOVERNMENT!

  • Patty posted at 2:01 pm on Fri, Jun 1, 2012.

    Patty Posts: 3

    Thanks Micheal for printing the facts the way they were expressed.

    It's never too late to change a venue, I am someone who knows that
    for a fact. They are just stubborn and don't want to budge.
    New Blood is needed.
    Phone calls to the 4 man team who decided this for all of us is needed.
    Pride in our downtown is needed.
    Revitalize downtown, thats what the city said. This is a heck of a way to do it.

  • Local Supporter posted at 1:48 pm on Fri, Jun 1, 2012.

    Local Supporter Posts: 6

    All I can say is it's a real shame! Since moving to Morgan Hill in 1995, this has always been my (and my families), favorite event. The "atmosphere" surrounding the downtown area and the "small town" feel, definitely enhances the experience. Once again, all i can say is that it's a real shame!!!

  • lmosue posted at 12:07 pm on Fri, Jun 1, 2012.

    lmosue Posts: 7

    I think many, many locals will just hang out downtown anyway because of our tradition. Our merchants will still do well I hope!

  • LauraB posted at 11:28 am on Fri, Jun 1, 2012.

    LauraB Posts: 39

    I vote with my checkbook. !!!

    IDC, I will NOT be sending a donation to your organization THIS YEAR, ie 2012.

    When the STREET DANCE returns to downtown MH, I will send a donation.

  • morganhillmom posted at 10:52 am on Fri, Jun 1, 2012.

    morganhillmom Posts: 31

    IDC - if you don't like so many obnoxious drunks, don't sell beer & wine, that will help calm things down. I'm not sure why IDC is messing with a proven set of events that works. First, they talked about moving the fireworks to Sobrato High - if you thought the traffic around Community Park was bad, just try getting in and out of Sobrato High with only one road in and out. At least at Community Park and the surrounding area, many residents walk from their home to see the show. At Sobrato, no one would be able to walk there, and traffic will be 10 times as bad.

    Now they've moved the Street Dance (that's what it is, don't try and change it) to a Freedom Concert. IDC, you're killing the spirit of what makes this event great. My normal, annual, like-clockwork donation to your organization will not happen this year, as you are trying to meddle with things that work fine. You might quibble with that, but let's see how much in donations you receive this year after all these changes and proposed changes. I'll bet they'll be down.

  • fredoliveri posted at 9:33 am on Fri, Jun 1, 2012.

    fredoliveri Posts: 285

    So a small group has decided for the business owners in downtown Morgan Hill along with deciding for the residents as well. All the reasons look really bogus to me. So moving the music is going to put a stop to the bad behaviour of a few idiots. Nope.

  • Gettin goog posted at 8:52 am on Fri, Jun 1, 2012.

    Gettin goog Posts: 50

    They should have left it alone. It's too bad..