Any McKinley Park Festival Must Engage and Respect the Neighborhood

Published June 6, 2022

Justin Kerr portrait November2020Justin Kerr is the publisher of the McKinley Park News.The Mas Flow Reggaeton Festival will not come to McKinley Park this summer, following an outpouring of community feedback both for, but mostly against, the proposed live music showcase that sought to bring 10,000 music fans to the park over the weekend of July 15-17, 2022.

Even though most community members were not in favor of this festival or its timing, many would still support a large event for the neighborhood and park. This topic has been regularly brought up at community meetings by neighbors — including myself — who would appreciate a big community event, especially following the years-ago dissolution of the Blessed Sacrament Parish carnival and the more recent death of the McKinley Park Farmers Market. Our neighborhood has no big event or ongoing series that can bring us all together.

To successfully bring a large festival to McKinley Park, organizers should:

  • Provide long advance notice and coordination with the community.
  • Create a festival for the community that ties into the interests of the neighborhood, rather than treating McKinley Park as a venue to host an event that primarily appeals to non-residents.
  • Present a right-sized festival that doesn't overload the park or the neighborhood, including proper advance planning and disclosure for access, public transit use, parking, traffic, security, maintenance and crowd management.
  • Show up to community meetings to discuss and present a festival proposal, and solicit the neighborhood's involvement in festival production.
  • Be completely transparent about budget, financing and profits, especially for a private, ticketed event that shuts off access to a public resource yet prospectively brings in revenue approaching $1 million.
  • Pay a fair price for private use of a premier public space like a large central park, such as $10,000 for each day of a private event and its setup and breakdown. Or tie payment to revenue at a fair rate, such as 10 percent of gross event revenue going back to the park.
  • Make a monetary deposit into escrow to cover timely and proper cleanup and restoration of any damages to a public space from a large private event.
  • Create a festival that recurs annually, and that the community can count on enjoying (and improving) every year.
  • Consider a non-park venue within the McKinley Park neighborhood, such as a festival on West 35th Street.
  • Provide assurance to the neighborhood by signing a Community Benefits Agreement-style contract that compels proper action from event producers (while giving producers assurance their event will move forward).

Many people would love to have an annual festival in McKinley Park to enjoy, including myself. However, we want a festival that includes the community and supports the park, not one that exploits public space as a low-cost resource and is likely to leave a mess.

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