NORWAY – The Maine Department of Transportation has refused Norway’s request to shut down Main Street on July 11, the day of the Norway Arts Festival.

“The DOT has repeatedly denied my request to close off the street,” Town Manager David Holt told selectmen at their meeting Thursday.

The idea was presented to the board by festival organizers in April to increase safety particularly for those participants in wheelchairs and baby strollers.

The arts festival, which is sponsored annually by the Western Maine Art Group and Norway Downtown, is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 11. The festival features the 42nd annual sidewalk art show, the second largest in the state, and a full day of performances along Norway’s historic Main Street. In addition to the sidewalk sale, the free event includes music, drumming, puppets, juggling, dance and other performances.

Because Main Street is a state road, it requires the Department of Transportation to close it.

Holt said he was told by an MDOT official that some communities have taken it upon themselves to close off a state road, but it is something the agency would not be likely to approve.

Aranka Matolcsy, executive director of the arts festival, told the board Thursday that there have been suggestions about prohibiting parking on one side of the road but merchants and the Norway Business Association have been reluctant to endorse that because they feel it would impede their businesses.

Matolcsy said she walked Main Street last year during the festival with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and had to step out into the street at least 12 times to get around vendors where crowds had gathered.

“A balance has to be struck between the vendors and the merchants,” she said.

Selectman Russ Newcomb suggested that side streets, such as Deering and Cottage streets, be closed off and that some vendors set up on those streets as a way to reduce the traffic problem on Main Street.

It was agreed that this is an idea that should be discussed for future festivals.

Vendors are asked to park in assigned spaces in the lots off of Main Street.

Police Chief Robert Federico said that despite the traffic problems, there were no parking complaints last year.

Festival organizers had tried in 2003 to get the MDOT approval to shut down the street and failed.

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