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Permit to be required for special events at Saratoga County Fairgrounds

Thursday, December 6, 2012
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— Future big events at the Saratoga County Fairground will need a special permit from the village under a tentative agreement hammered out between the village and fair officials.

Under the agreement, a village permit could have conditions attached for any event expected to attract more than 5,000 people, such as a major concert.

“There’s going to be notification for any event for less than 5,000 people, and for more it would be an application and a permit,” said Mayor John P. Romano.

Some details still need to be worked out, but Romano said he plans to bring the deal to the Village Board of Trustees for approval Monday night. The board would have the final say on any permit applications.

The tentative agreement was reached over several negotiating sessions in recent weeks, after village ambulance officials called for better notification so they could have more time to schedule staffing for large events. Fire officials said they have similar concerns.

At a Sept. 20 meeting, village officials said there needs to be better planning, but fair officials said the costs passed on to event promoters can’t be too high or the village's approval process too long.

The issue arose after this summer, when fair management sought to expand the number of events at the fairgrounds in an effort to improve its finances. The fairground needs revenue from events beyond the annual six-day July county fair in order to be financially viable, fair manager Jeff Townsend said at the time.

The fair itself attracts 70,000 to 90,000 people, but those crowds are spread over a six-day run of 15-hour days. The new policy would apply to one-time events like concerts or flea markets.

For a number of years, the fairground on Prospect Street has been rented for additional summer events like the GE company picnic, Irish Fest, the GottaGetGone Folk Festival and a dog show, without generating significant crowd problems.

But this summer, the fairground for the first time hosted some large events promoted by country music radio stations, including a “world’s largest yard sale” and “summer picnic” concert. Both events led to traffic backups in the village.

Then, in September, a planned Montgomery Gentry country concert was moved elsewhere after the village had problems dealing with the concert promoter. Fair officials said $28,000 the village sought for reimbursement of police costs for the all-day show was too high.

That led to the September meeting, at which the two sides decided to try to reach a formal agreement before the 2013 outdoor event season.

“The fair has been very good to work with,” Romano said. “We’ve worked together in a spirit of cooperation.”

William Schwerd, president of the Saratoga County Agricultural Society, which owns the fairgrounds, had said earlier this week that an agreement was close, but he couldn’t be reached today.

 
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