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Midfest concerns slow permit

Neighbors’ concerns about the Midfest Summer Celebration and the recent Cinco de Mayo street party appear to be encouraging the city and organizers to take extra precautions to ensure fewer headaches for residents.

Meanwhile, Midfest organizers are still trying to get a permit to host the new event in Marshall Park next weekend.

Midfest is launching a series of Saturday concerts in the park at 915 27th St. (I and 27th streets), across from a block of bars and restaurants.

A special events permit has not yet been issued to Midfest’s organizers, Midtown Business Association (MBA) and T & M Organization for the Arts, said Hindolo Brima, spokesperson for the city Department of Parks and Recreation.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department’s Special Event Review Board met Thursday to review the request. With the event just days away, organizers say they have not been notified of any special requirements needed to get a permit.

"We have been on pins and needles for two weeks waiting for the permit," said MBA Operations Manager Aja Uranga-Foster, adding that the city has indicated the event will happen. (For more on special events requirements, click on https://sacramentopress.com/headline/8218/Midfest_Special_events_guidelines)

Organized long-time residents met with the city after Cinco de Mayo to voice their complaints about the event. They’re also preparing a formal complaint to submit to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, said resident Vito Sgromo, past president of Marshall School/New Era Park Neighborhood Association and a board member since 1991.

MBA was caught off-guard by neighborhood association members’ reactions to the Cinco de Mayo celebration and the upcoming event. That reaction led organizers and the city to arrange extra services, such as more security and parking services, for Midfest, said Uranga-Foster.

They’re also limiting the 28th Street closure to half a block, on the south end in front of businesses. Skateboarding demos were canceled weeks ago because skaters are going to an event in San Francisco, said Uranga-Foster.

Meanwhile, the city is reportedly considering changing the special events permit process to require applications be filed two months in advance, rather than one, to resolve some complaints with the process and events. The current one-month timeline from filing to hosting the event doesn’t always provide time to resolve all issues related to the event, she said.

Whether the city would change its policy that residents need only be notified seven days before an event was unclear.

The festival is planned for Saturday, May 30 and Sunday, May 31 in the park. Ads promoting the event have already been placed in local media, including The Sacramento Press.

On May 18, residents of Marshall Park and other nearby neighborhoods who were attending a Neighborhood Advisory Group (NAG) meeting said they were "up in arms" because they didn’t hear about the event until two weeks before it’s scheduled.

“What we’re fearful of is that it’s going to be like Cinco de Mayo: Something that’s out of control,” Sgromo said later.

But other residents like the Midfest idea. On May 16, a Midfest organizers’ street team notified residents living from J to H streets between 26th to 28th streets about the event. The team reached 44 people, and 38 supported Midfest, said Randy Paragary, who owns Centro Cocina Mexicana at J and 28th streets and other businesses in the area.

"A majority of them are renters and they’re young," said Trevor Shults, Paragary Restaurant Group’s events and promotions manager. "They want to have fun. It’s all about making Midtown a fun and beautiful place to be.”

Sgromo said he and some other residents worry Midfest and three summer concerts will be “drinking parties” held primarily to draw more clientele to J Street bars facing the park.

“Their business is declining, and out of desperation, they’re trying to make this into Cesar Chavez Park,” Sgromo said.

Centro is operating a for-profit taco stand at Midfest. It’s only natural that Paragary and other business owners hope the festival will attract customers to their restaurants and bars that weekend, Shults said.

At the meeting, Sacramento City Councilmember Steve Cohn said the council needs to update the approval process for special events permit requests. Uranga-Foster told residents the organization is working with the city to modify special events requirements so neighbors are notified well in advance even for smaller-scale events like this.

During previous meetings with Paragary, two leaders from Marshall School/New Era Park Neighborhood Association said they’d support festivals in the park, including Midfest, and agreed those would be a good way to raise money for a Marshall Park fountain. However, neither the association nor MBA notified other residents about Midfest plans until the street team went out. Other residents said they want to be included in the event planning process with businesses.

Midfest is being publicized as a fundraiser that will raise money for fountain and three nonprofits. At the meeting, residents questioned the fundraising aspect of the event, since other events have been touted as fountain fundraisers, but no money was ever donated to the fountain fund, they said.

Initially, the city was going to fund the fountain, but didn’t have the money, said Paragary, who then got involved. He formed the Gifts to Share Marshall Park Fountain Committee last year.

Paragary offered to donate $1,000 in Cinco proceeds to the fund “to make a nice gesture” to residents for approving Cinco plans. The Gifts to Share account was opened last week and the money donated after the accounting process, Paragary said. No other events have been held to benefit the fountain, he added.

J Street businesses have promised to donate $1,000 to the fountain fund every time neighbors have agreed to an event request, including Second Saturdays, opening GV Hurley’s, or last year’s Cinco de Mayo, said Sgromo and George Raya, co-chair of the Marshall School neighborhood association.

This could not be confirmed with Gifts to Share, a nonprofit fundraising organization where the fountain fund has been set up. Gifts to Share helps businesses and community groups partner with the city to raise money for city programs involving parks, recreation, neighborhood improvement, culture and education.

Paragary also helped set up the Sutter Business Improvement Area, which began operating May 1. The organization represents businesses from 27th to 29th streets between J and P streets.

The beer garden will be operated Saturday by an outside event company hired by Gifts to Share Marshall Park Fountain Committee. All those proceeds will go to the fountain fund, said Shults and Uranga-Foster.

The fountain committee will apply for special events permits for the next three concerts in Marshall Park, planned for the last Saturdays of June through August, Paragary said.

Sunday, the nonprofit T & M Organization for the Arts will operate the beer garden and collect the proceeds. A dunk tank run by the local roller derby squad the Sacred City Derby Girls will benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

The SPCA will benefit from the Splash Dogs Midtown Fun Jump held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot at 28th and J. For $20, neighborhood dogs will get a chance to jump into a pool to see how far they can jump and compete with other dogs.

Midfest will take place on the park’s south end near J Street businesses. MBA and T & M have agreed to set the stage facing businesses, rather than residents, near 28th Street towards the park’s middle. Two porta-potties will sit near the stage for performers and the main bank will be somewhat hidden in trees. The event runs from noon to 8 p.m. The MBA bought sound meters this week to check sound levels.

"Between all these sound meters, we’ll be running around making sure everything’s cool," Uranga-Foster said. "We’re not out to blow anybody out of the park. It’s not a rock out; it’s just a show."

Suzanne Hurt is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.


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