Jarrod R. Kohls
Plans are still up in the air on how the City of Isleton plans on approaching the notion of hosting the 2013 edition of the Delta Father’s Day weekend festival now known as the Cajun Festival.
Two weeks ago, the Isleton City Council dove head first into discussion of the finer points regarding safety measures surrounding the festival as well as potential adjustments to licensing protocol for vendors.
The issue at hand for Wednesday’s meeting was that of vendor opportunities within the confines of the festival grounds. In previous festival years, both sides of the Main Street in Isleton were utilized offering attendees seemingly endless opportunities to purchase a multitude of items.
“Is there anyway that we can expand the booths? The booths are essentially free money for the chamber,” said President of the Isleton Merchants Association Chuck Hasz. “Without merchant booths people just go home. We need to find a way to keep people at the festival and the vendor booths are entertainment in themselves.”
Use of the northern portion of Main Street during festival days was halted several years ago after an instance when the congested streets created complications for the Isleton Fire Department. This point was discussed at great length during the February 6 meeting and the issue was revisited Wednesday by council.
“I have mixed feedback on this. My problem is the issue of fire protection behind the booths and access to them,” said Isleton City Manager Dan Hinrichs. “It really worries me that if a fire gets started, that we couldn’t get at it quickly and a whole bunch of the buildings go just go down like dominos.”
Over the past two weeks Councilmember Robert Jankovitz, along with city staff, conducted research pertaining to how other area cities organize their vendor booths for outdoor festivals.
The council and those residents in attendance were provided with a city map with a potential new orientation of booths on the north side of Main Street that would allow sufficient access to fire hydrants.
Despite how feasible the new orientation seemed to be, the concern of public safety outweighed the proposal.
Mayor Mark Bettencourt explained that, at this point there is no reasonable way to estimate the population of attendees at the possible 2013 festival and that the risk of allowing the increase of vendors on Main Street could present a safety risk providing a large spike in attendance.
He continued to explain that ultimately the decision on vender placement is in the hands of the Isleton Fire Chief and county ordinances.
“We can beat this thing all night. I know what the thoughts of the fire chief are on this. He is the man that has the last say in the matter,” said Bettencourt. “Whether you agree with it or I agree with it or who doesn’t agree with it; we can’t change state fire code.”
In years past, the festival had attracted a rather large crowd in which the streets of Isleton were flooded with overwhelming numbers. This in turn helped generate revenue for the City and the Chamber of Commerce as well as for many of its businesses.
The reality is that along with the festival dollars came instances of public intoxication and other undesirable attendee behavior.
While helping the festival evolve into a success for the community is the ultimate goal for the City - the Chamber of Commerce is trying to do so by having the festival on its own terms and hosting a family friendly event where safety is put first.