By AMY GAREIS
News-Herald Staff Writer
CADIZ – A longtime street fair set for this weekend drew some opposition during the July 22 council meeting.
About nine members of the St. James AME Church approached leaders with concerns about the Buffalo Street Fair on Saturday. Concerns lie primarily with the organizers of the fete following an apparent conflict, and some residents who attend the church wrote a letter to the village earlier this month asking them to not permit the festival. At that time, council members said they had given permission this spring and none of the opponents had voiced their issues at a meeting. That changed last Thursday when residents and congregation members went before council, but no one from the event committee was in attendance.
Many of the members reside along North Buffalo Street and said problems recently arose which forced the church to discontinue its involvement in the fair.
“This year would have been the fifth year,” said resident Bonnie Cowans. “The previous years it went fine and everybody had a good time. The church had a fair in the late 90’s or 2000 and it died out but was brought back.”
Cowans explained that another person resurrected the block party and neighbors and the church got involved. Then a new organizer took over and the church sold food as a fund-raiser for St. James AME. She added that she was approached in April to help and told that official to contact the church. From there, things apparently went sour.
“There hadn’t been problems in the past. [The organizer] got in vendors. He said since it was growing he would donate to the church. He borrowed the church’s tables, and the [church] trustees said if they are used it cost $10 a table. He’d get the $10 from people and not give it back to the church.”
She said the parish received an unflattering letter from the fair committee that led St. James to back out of the festivities. “To me, it was a slap in the face to the church–a proud AME church–and our pastor. We’re all for giving back to the community, but we don’t know what he gave back to the community. The church members signed a letter saying we were not involved and don’t want it on the street.”
She claimed the organizer used the church’s water and electricity for the block party, which runs into the wee hours of the morning, but he would not have access this time. “I don’t know how he’d get water or electricity unless he’s on another street. We’re coming here with an open mind. When the reverend put the letter [to the editor in the paper], we though it was fine. We don’t understand why council gave permission. If you say it still stands, I don’t know how it’s going to operate.”
Council President Curt Crawshaw said he brought up the matter during a previous meeting after the panel received the church’s correspondence.
“I understand your reservations. I brought it up,” he said. “The application to use the street was in April and we had given that our approval. I read the letter to the editor [and found out about this].”
Cowans responded that the church had no involvement with the fair but they would have helped if they were approached in January.
“We don’t want to be a mediator in a conflict,” Crawshaw replied. “We’d already given approval. Next year, we’ll [review it and] go from there.”
Discussion continued and a suggestion was made to let the street fair continue, while it was up to the organizer to deal with the power supply. Some church members said they did not know who comprised the event committee. Resident Ann Dandridge asked if it was legal for someone who does not reside on the street to conduct the event; Crawshaw replied it was.
“In the last four years [he] promised to donate to the church and never has. All we get is a promise,” Dandridge commented.
Rev. Charles Simpson asked whether there were any requirements for council to approve such an activity. Officials responded that they received a request and had spoken with the street and police departments before giving the OK since the road had to be temporarily closed.
Church members also suggested having a contract for events in the future.
“Next time someone asks, it will be different,” Crawshaw noted.