NORWAY — The Board of Selectmen granted a provisional outdoor festival permit Thursday night to the president of Nateva Festivals after he apologized for failing to apply for the permit. The Fourth of July weekend festival is expected to draw thousands of people from around the world to the Oxford Fairgrounds.
The unanimous vote by the Board of Selectmen after an hour-long public hearing to grant the permit on a provisional basis is dependent on the festival organizers submitting additional information on issues such as water supplies and traffic impact and the signature of Police Chief Rob Federico, and 10 other town officials.
“Until I see a written description of the (security) plans, I won’t sign off,” said Federico, who will meet with other law enforcement officials next week to work out the details of the plan. The application is expected to be signed by selectmen and the town manager plus four other town officials after that meeting.
The multi-stage music festival, which will feature such acts as Further, Jakob Dylan and the Flaming Lips, is expected to draw some 15,000 people to the Fairgrounds off Route 26 on the Oxford-Norway town line. Tickets have been sold to people in every state in the United States and around the world in countries such as Japan and England, said Frank Chandler, president of Nateva Festivals.
Although the majority of the Oxford Fairgrounds property is in Oxford, and the organizers have obtained a mass-gathering permit from that town, Chandler raised some eyebrows and some anger when he was quoted recently in various Web venues and the Portland Press Herald as being more concerned about toilets and security than obtaining the permit from Norway for a small section of land that will be used for camping during the festival.
“Frankly we should have come here six months ago,” said Chandler of the permit Norway required for outdoor gatherings that have more than 250 people attending.
Striking a more humble stance before selectmen, Chandler said he “felt very bad” about the way he has been portrayed but “without security and toilets, you would have chaos.”
“It’s definitely my fault that I didn’t come to the town of Norway,” said Chandler, who said he simply wasn’t aware that part of the venue was in Norway.
This is not the first time that organizers of a large scale music festival have butted heads with selectmen over the ordinance that was enacted in 2007 to ensure public safety.
Aaron Fuda of McKay Road in Norway claimed at the time that the ordinance was unconstitutional and was enacted because of his music festival — the Fully Unclothed Dancing Activism Festival — which is usually held on his Norway property to protest unjust laws, particularly marijuana laws.
Last year Fuda refused to apply for an outdoor festival permit saying he had abided by the rules by selling under 200 tickets. Police sought a restraining order against him several days before the festival to stop it. A judge denied the restraining order asking why the order was requested only several days before the event.
Under the provisions of the ordinance, selectmen may grant or deny the license or grant the permit with conditions such as requiring a corporate bond from a company, agree to hire security guards or police, and show that adequate facilities are being provided including sanitary waste facilities, water supplies and so forth.
Penalties for violations are considered civil penalties of not less than $100 nor more than $2,500 for each violation and attorneys fees and costs. Each day the violation occurs is considered a separate offense.
Chandler said that he is aware “there is nothing routine” about the Fourth of July festival but because there are only 15,000 tickets being sold with international groups who usually command much larger audiences, he likened the Nateva Festival to an intimate “backyard barbecue.”
Town Manager David Holt said he was “a little ticked” with Chandler for not submitting the application in a timely manner but said he was excited about the economic possibilities for the area.
“What’s important is that we are all invited back next year,” Chandler said.