Greenfield’s Fiddlestick Festival Cancelled
BY DAVID FISHER
GREENFIELD (March 8, 2022) — Tuesday night’s Greenfield City Board meeting, which centered on issues related to the Fiddlestick Festival, was full of surprises.
Conversation regarding the hotly-debated topic of relocating the site of the Fiddlestick Festival was continued from the board’s February 8, 2022, meeting. Following the meeting, local citizens learned the festival might be cancelled, if a suitable location could not be agreed upon.
This resulted in a loud outcry from the public that flooded Greenfield City officials and certain local business owners with angry phone calls and numerous Facebook posts in support of continuing the popular hometown celebration. This was due partly to the misconception that the board members and/or business owners were against having the festival.
The area in question is from the intersection of Highway 124 to the Mexican restaurant on South Front Street, which is the same spot the event was held last year.
The controversy stems from a statement made by a local business owner, who indicated she represented other businesses along South Front Street in requesting that some kind of compromise be reached to prevent the Fiddlestick Festival from blocking customer parking in front of their stores, during one of the busiest times of year. This store owner suggested the festival be moved to an alternate location.
At that time, board members expressed their desire to keep the businesses on South Front Street open, while continuing to host the Fiddlestick Festival.
Several possible alternate locations were discussed, but all were ruled out for various reasons.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, Mayor Cindy McAdams addressed the issue saying, “First of all, things got out of hand.” She reiterated city board members and local merchants are, and have always been, in favor of having the Fiddlestick Festival.
“So, don’t blame it on anybody, because we do want the Fiddlestick Festival,” Mayor McAdams said. “I’m going to make a suggestion. I’m going to take the blame off of the merchants, and I’m going to put it on the city.
“Due to all of the problems associated with finding a place to host the festival,” Mayor McAdams said, “I need a motion and a second to have the Fiddlestick Festival here on North Front Street.”
She proposed holding the event along North Front Street from Hamburger Alley to the corner of Garland Street, next to Doctor Karen Davidson’s office. The area would be blocked off to traffic at each end of the street in this area, and the festival could spread out from the railroad tracks to the sidewalk along North Front Street. This would not affect Wimpy’s Corner or other businesses on Front Street.
The mayor explained the city owns all of the property in this area and everything has been worked out to make the location available for festival activities. “We have a water hookup, and we’ll have electricity installed at this location. I think this is the best option for our business owners and Pope’s Concessions.”
The mayor noted this would include the area in front of Greenfield’s city hall, police department, fire station, and the Dr. Nathan Porter Library. She explained that parking for all of these facilities is available behind the buildings. Also, Fire Chief Bob Dudley has agreed with the plan, and has found another place to temporarily house firefighting equipment so firefighters could respond in case of a fire.
Alderman Don Allen said he thought it would be a better place to have the festival, because it’s level and there is more room at that location.
Mayor McAdams stated the festival would not have to be smaller to fit at that site.
However, Alderman James Roy Pope, whose family-owned business, Pope’s Concessions, has provided free carnival rides and other family-oriented activities enjoyed by area youngsters for the past 27 years (with the financial support of local merchants and the City of Greenfield), announced his family has reluctantly decided not to host the Fiddlestick Festival this year.
Alderman Pope said that he had not been informed that the North Street location mentioned by the mayor was an option until the meeting. “I had no idea that was an option, and have not looked at that.”
Pope stated he investigated the possibility of setting up the festival at Greenfield City Park, located at 204 Akin St., as requested by the board during February’s meeting. But, after looking the situation over, he determined it was not feasible. He stated, since the rides and other attractions would have to be set up on the parking lot, there would be no parking. Additionally, it would be in a residential area and would likely generate complaints from residents.
Pope stated, because a decision on finding a suitable alternate location for the festival has been delayed for so long, there is simply not enough time to secure sufficient donations and book entertainment and activities for the event, which was originally scheduled for April 13-16. Alderman Pope stated the Fiddlestick Festival may be held in the future, but it is not possible to do so this year.
“My family and I have talked. We’ve had a big discussion over this,” Pope said. “The festival is near and dear to us. We did it in honor of my daddy, because he wanted to give back to the community that he was born and raised in. I think we did a good job with that. We turned it into something I think everybody in Greenfield can be proud of. We’ve had a great run. We’ve more than done our due diligence, as far as putting money back into Greenfield. That’s what we wanted to do. But, it wasn’t about money. It was about giving to our kids. We’ve seen a lot of smiling faces over the years.
“I come prepared tonight to make it easy on everybody. There have been some things that have gotten out of hand, and I apologize, personally, about that. I don’t think I caused it. I didn’t mean to cause it, if I did. That was never our intent to cause any problems with any business owner or the City of Greenfield or any citizen.
“We take it personally, so we fight for it. That’s the way our family is. I don’t apologize for fighting for it. I apologize if people got hurt.
“But, with that said, we’ve waited two months about making a decision. I don’t want to make anybody on the board mad, but those two months are detrimental whether we can get sponsorships or not get sponsorships – whether we can have events or not have events – whether I can book monster trucks and bands and things like that.”
Pope said, “So, my family’s just going to back out, not because we want to, but because we feel like that’s best for the town, and this will cause less problems. We may come back and have it some other time, but not right now. There have been arguments and fights the last three years every time it comes around. So, we’re just going to take it off the table. I wish Greenfield and the merchants the very best. I don’t want there to be any retribution to them. I just think they’re looking out for their businesses. I fully understand. The world is in a cancel culture type thing right now, and I think it has hit Greenfield. I’m not happy about it, but I feel like it’s best for my company, my family and for Greenfield.
“I wasn’t expecting that Mr. Pope, but I understand,” Mayor McAdams said.
Pope said, “I will say this, I don’t think we spend enough for our kids and the young people in our town.”
He stated last year’s festival was very successful, and attracted not only young people, but families as well. Pope compared the festival to a family reunion of sorts. “People bring their kids and grandkids. I could name you dozens of people that only come that time of year, and they enjoy it. But, there’s no sense in rehashing the subject.”
Pope added he couldn’t get the festival together now even if he tried. He expressed thanks to all of the sponsors he’s had over the years. “Evidently, someone thought it was worthwhile, or they wouldn’t have been sponsors.”
Alderman Pope’s mother, Jane Arnold Pope, said, “We’re tired. We’re tired of fighting. We appreciate everything that the town has done. I appreciate you (the mayor) trying to find a place (for the festival). Right now, we’re just tired.”
“Maybe we can come back and look at it a different time,” Alderman Pope said.
According to Debbie Wren, owner of The Wren’s Nest, during the January meeting, she indicated she was fine with having the festival at the same location as last year, and the board should have voted on it then.
“Every business owner was invited to come to that board meeting, and they didn’t show up. Two of us did, and we said we were good with it.”
Wren said, during the February 8 board meeting, K.K. Robinson, owner of the Violet Rhea & Co. gift shop, said she represented the other business owners on South Front Street regarding relocating the festival, due to it blocking customer parking. However, Wren stressed Robinson had not spoken with her or the other business owners and did not represent them.
Addressing Alderman Pope, Wren said, “It’s not just you who was hurt. My family was hurt too.” Wren indicated she had even received threats on Facebook because of the issue.
“I don’t appreciate the comments that were made against me or my business, because, I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Wren stated she didn’t change her mind concerning the festival, and she had always been for it. “I told you you could have it – I was for it – I was okay with it,” Wren said.
Pope stated he told this reporter what businesses were affected on that street, but didn’t know the name of the new restaurant at that time.
“I personally have not put anything on Facebook,” Pope said. “I try to stay off of it.”
Pope said he doesn’t wish any harm to the Wren or Robinson families. “I’ve known your family forever. I’ve known Mrs. Robinson’s family forever.” He added Mrs. Robinson’s father and his father-in-law were best of friends.
“I’m sure people are upset. We’re talking thousands and thousands of people that come to the festival,” Pope said. “At this point, there’s too much damage and too many hurt feelings.”
It would seem that business owners would welcome the festival. Look at all the foot traffic. I have a business and had to relocate due to the tornado, but if I were in Greenfield, I would have a big sale that week, giveaways, chances for a big prize etc. Seems it would be a boon for all the business owners. Letting people get to know your business, meeting new and old acquaintances. What a shame that a festival everyone loves to attend is canceled due to petty bickering.