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City council votes on changes to Niles Bluegrass Festival

UPDATE: The City of Niles Council voted 6 in favor, 1 opposed for the 16th Annual Niles Bluegrass Festival to be held in Riverfront Park, the original spot, May 31st through June 3rd, 2018.

The only change in motion is that the city will not budget $1,000 for turf repair. If any turf is damaged in the park, the festival organizers are responsible for repair.

ORIGINAL SCRIPT (before meetings):

“It’s just getting to a point where enough is enough. You’re slowing down the ball that’s going,” said T.J. Martin, the Coordinating Chairperson with the Riverfront Optimist Club of Niles.

A frustrated festival coordinator T.J. Martin says he and board members with the Niles Family Fun Fair and Bluegrass Americana Folk Music Festival are looking for approval from the City Council of Niles to actually have that festival this year.

“It’s a fundraiser for the children and.. don’t take that away from them,” said Martin.

According to one City of Niles council member, there have been several complaints about overcrowded parking during the 4-day weekend festival. Martin says he’s had to meet with the council to keep the festival from being split into two parts, or from possibly being shut down.

We reached out to the city of Niles appointed officials but no one was available for interview.

“There is no way that I’m going to split up the family fun fair from the Bluegrass Festival. Because what you’re doing is you’re taking the carnival and the family fun kids zone area. That’s an attraction that brings people in,” said Martin.

Since the Riverfront Optimist Club of Niles is the nonprofit group that hosts the festival every year, Martin says he’s blown away that the City of Niles is even considering splitting it up or shutting it down, especially since the downtown area benefits from some of the revenue generated from families visiting the festival.

Reporter Q: “And there’s parking all throughout downtown too?”

“Oh yes! There’s parking areas throughout town and we were thinking about extended golf carts to transport people back and forth to and from different areas,” said Martin.

But Martin says if a decision is made to split the festival up, he’s already talked with the festival’s board about that outcome.

“If they want to separate it and that’s the final decision… there won’t be no more festival,” said Martin.

A Parks Department meeting was held at 5pm Monday evening to discuss possible recommendations. Following that meeting, at 6pm, the City of Niles Council meeting was held where a vote was reached to keep the festival at the same location, under the condition that the city no longer pay a $1000 for turf repair.

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