December 23, 2014

Elyria
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RoverFest presents logistical challenge to Lorain

LORAIN — The prospects of downtown businesses doing well when RoverFest 2014 comes to town in late July are something about which they should be eager, local officials say.

But it’s the unknowns surrounding a potential crowd of thousands partying in and around Black River Landing and spilling out into the surrounding downtown are worrying some.

“We wish for this to be a very positive thing for downtown, but we have concerns with anything that has a projected target of 15,000 at a limited venue,” Loraine Ritchey, co-chair of Charleston Village Society Inc., a group that works to promote and preserve the city’s oldest neighborhood.

Word of the one-day music festival’s announced move to Lorain on July 26 after six years in downtown Cleveland has some local officials fretting over potential problems.

In a letter to Mayor Chase Ritenauer, Lorain Port Authority Director Rick Novak, and Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera, Ritchey said the festival’s plans to move to town “has caused us some concerns as to the logistics” as well as the potential audience targeted by advertising.

“The marketing banner alone is one of a lack of respect,” Ritchey said.

One poster advertising the festival includes an image of scantily-clad women, with one appearing to be nude, to promote the event’s Miss Morning Glory calendar contest, which awards $3,000 and a vacation to the overall winner.

“The only morning glories I know are those I planted by Settler’s Watch, and they do not include naked women,” Ritchey said.

The festival also features rock bands P.O.D. and Trapt, as well as hip-hop artists T-Pain and Lil’ Jon.

RoverFest is the creation of Shane “Rover” French, host of “Rover’s Morning Glory,” a syndicated radio show heard over 100.7 WMMS-FM in Cleveland. He lives in Avon.

The festival got a big boost in 2013 when it featured the first public appearance by Amanda Berry after she was freed from 10 years of imprisonment by Ariel Castro.

A major concern is security and parking for the Charleston Village area during after the festival set to run 1 p.m. to midnight July 26.

“It’s not like the International Festival where people come, pick up food, stay a couple of hours and leave,” Ritchey said of the city’s best-known civic event, which plays out over several days each summer. “With Mr. Rover, the beer will be flowing like nectar of the gods, and we want to make sure people are respectful when they leave that venue.”

The Charleston Village group is particularly sensitive to how things will go around the Settler’s Watch area a few blocks west of Lorain City Hall. The spot is often used for overflow parking for local events.

“To be honest, we don’t want these yahoos relieving themselves on the monuments (along the Eric Barnes Heroes Walk and Admiral King Tribute site),” Ritchey said.

Charleston Village Society is asking that the downtown area have security patrols from 10 a.m. July 26 until 4 a.m. July 27.

In a note to Ritchey and others, Mayor Chase Ritenauer said all security costs for the festival “will be covered by Rover.”

Security plans call for a private security company, Lorain police and a number of area police departments, Ritenauer said.

“We would rather go too far with security and staffing than not far enough,” Ritenauer said.

Lorain Port Authority Executive Director Rick Novak said he understood that RoverFest would provide security through Tenable Security, a major firm that provides similar services for major Cleveland events.

Questions about the festival were referred by a program spokeswoman to French, who could not be reached Monday.

City officials and police have been in discussion with RoverFest promoters for some time about bringing the festival to town, according to Novak.

“Charleston Village has very legitimate concerns, and we’re trying to accommodate those concerns,” Novak said. “There’s always the chance something could happen when you have 10,000 (or more) people.”

He hopes the event can be a major opportunity to showcase the city in hopes of attracting future entertainment and other events.

“Sometimes the entertainment business hesitates, saying it’s not sure Lorain can support big acts,” Novak said. “Let’s show them it can.”

Tickets for RoverFest 2014 are $25 and go on sale 7 a.m. Friday. The festival press release noted last year’s event sold out in 61 minutes.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.