Aldermen thinking about Springfest replacement – Music, fireworks at Civic Center considered

Published 4:53 am Wednesday, February 14, 2024

City officials are exploring the possibility of sponsoring an outdoor concert with a firework show the weekend before the Independence Day holiday to compensate for the decision to discontinue the annual spring music festival held on the Downtown Square for nearly a quarter-century.

Known as Springfest from 1998 to 2022, the event was rebranded as the Up in Smoke festival last year and combined with what organizers hoped would be a popular steak cookoff competition.

Mounting yearly expenses, lower than normal attendance last year, and a general distaste by City Aldermen for a carnival atmosphere in the close confines of the Square, helped lead to the decision to stop the annual concerts and carnival rides.

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A gunfire incident near the end of the Saturday night concert in 2022 caused a panic in the crowd and hurt public perception of the safety of what was always thought to be a family affair, safe for older people and children alike.

Another incident in the final hours of last year’s event saw a local businessman stabbed and two other citizens arrested and charged with serious crimes. Only the quick actions of police and medical personnel already on the Square for the event saved the victim’s life.

Aldermen are now considering a suggestion by Civic Center director Rodney Holley to have a similar event with live music and a festival setting in conjunction with a large rodeo show that will be at the venue June 26-30.

“That will be the weekend before the Fourth of July and some people have asked me about having outdoor music and a fireworks show for the people of Batesville to enjoy,” Holley said while pitching the idea to the city board last week.

“We could have limited fair rides, like a Ferris wheel and a bouncy house for kids,” Holley said. “Not a full blown carnival, I don’t think any of us like that word.”

Mayor Hal Ferrell said he had discussed the idea with Holley and others, and believes an event that mimics the family atmosphere of the popular Picnic With Police held each summer would be a good replacement for the spring events on the Square.

“Saturday night would be the fireworks, and maybe it could be the Red, White, and Blue festival or something like that,” Holley said. “That part we haven’t gotten to yet.”

Aldermen were enthusiastic about the idea, asking Holley and the mayor to continue to gather information about costs and accessibility for all parts of a proposed event.