Fort Mill Times

Heated debate over festival

The usually subdued Fort Mill Town Council bordered on a shouting match Monday night, when discussing a proposed new town festival called SpringFest.

Councilman Waddell Gibson said he knew nothing of the plans for SpringFest until reading about it in the Fort Mill Times. Town Manager David Hudspeth led the council through a set of recommendations submitted by volunteers working with town staff to draw up plans for the festival.

"I don't know how council can give feedback because the council has had no input," Gibson said. "I had no input."

Gibson, Mayor Danny Funderburk, and council members Guynn Savage and Ken Starnes spent several tense moments arguing about what the council did or didn't do during a planning session two weeks ago, when it directed Parks and Recreation Director Brown Simpson to work with other staff members and any town residents who volunteered to draw up a game plan for a town sponsored festival.

"So we will not devolve into a York County Council meeting let me say, we possibly could have done things a little differently," Councilman Larry Huntley said. "We could have voted on [instructing Simpson to make some recommendations]."

However, the majority of the council seemed to agree that it discussed changing the way town council regulates events inside the town's corporate limits. Members also stated that just because Fort Mill was creating a new festival, it did not stop the private Fest-i-Fun Committee from seeking permission to hold Fest-i-Fun again this year.

"They are two completely separate issues," Starnes said. "We don't own Fest-i-Fun, it's hard to get rid of something you don't own."

On a 5-1 vote, the council approved moving ahead with SpringFest to be held Saturday May 3, at Walter Elisha Park. Gibson was opposed. Councilman Grady Ervin was not at the meeting.

SpringFest will run only on Saturday. No carnival rides are planned but there is a possibility for a hot air balloon if the weather permits. Hudspeth also recommended putting up temporary fencing around the event, and limiting retail sales during the festival to groups like local school booster clubs and other non-profits.

Fort Mill will be seeking corporate sponsorships to defray the cost of hiring entertainment for the day-long festival. The planning group Simpson is leading will meet again at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, at the Spratt Building at 215 Main Street.