Norway File photo

NORWAY — The Board of Selectmen voted Thursday night to table a request by the new promoters of the Norway Music and Arts Festival until it gets answers to a “red flag” raised by the police chief.

The newly formed nonprofit Creative Norway asked selectmen to shut down Main Street for the July festival, which historically has been run jointly by Norway Downtown and the Western Maine Art Group. Last year, Norway Downtown hired Moovin On Productions, owned by Jonathan Leavitt of Sumner, to organize the festival.

Although the board agreed that last year’s event was a large draw and was well-run, they had concerns about this year’s proposal by Leavitt.

According to Leavitt, after partnering with Norway Downtown last year, the two organizations had a “difference in vision” and Norway Downtown voluntarily withdrew from the contract.

However, Scott Berk, co-president of Norway Downtown, gave a different version of the separation and said it was not voluntary.

“We had a difference of opinion in terms of contractual obligations within that agreement,” Berk told selectmen. “We felt like the agreement had been broken.” 

Berk said he couldn’t share the details of the departure because he had to abide by the policies of Norway Downtown’s board of directors. He said he would present the board with a narrative at its next meeting. 

After the split, Leavitt formed a new nonprofit — Creative Norway — which was approved by the secretary of state but is awaiting verification by the IRS.

Although selectmen approved the application for this year’s festival, the lack of support from Norway Downtown led Police Chief Rob Federico to ask if the event would be the same as last year.

“It appears to be something vastly different than what has happened over the past several years,” Federico said. “Norway Downtown chose to remove itself from overseeing this festival, and I think that’s a red flag.”

If you had another entity come here and ask to close Main Street to hold an event, wouldn’t you want to know a whole lot more about what the event was?” he asked.

“Clearly it’s going to be representing the town of Norway,” he said. “It’s going to be assumed it will be the same as it has been in years past. But it may be better, it may be worse, I don’t know. The information on the application is quite vague as to what exactly type of festival is this.” 

Leavitt said he met with Federico, Fire Chief Dennis Yates and Town Manager Dennis Lajoie before asking the board to approve the festival and closing the street.

“We’ve answered all the questions, filled out every piece of paperwork and done everything we need,” Leavitt said.

“This is not a new event,” he said. “This is not a change of direction. We have the same vendors coming back. We have the same set-up as last year.”

Selectman Russell Newcomb said the lack of support from the Police Department was enough to warrant tabling the discussion to the next meeting. Leavitt could present a full vendor list at that time and Norway Downtown could shed light on the circumstances surrounding the contract breach.

“It’s hard for me to support it without the backing of the police chief,” Newcomb said.

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