St. Joseph County Council votes in favor of Lakeville music festival

By: Kevin Lewis Email
By: Kevin Lewis Email

After nearly three hours of deliberation, the St. Joseph County Council voted 5-4 in favor of a two-day Lakeville music festival.

Titled the Lakeville Folk and Blues Festival, organizers expect anywhere between 1,000 and 8,000 music fans to flood into the town of 786 people.

Those in support brought a petition of 400 signatures and attested to the festival’s ability to place Lakeville on the music map.

“I’ve had bands contacting me left and right. I had five groups talk to me today alone,” festival organizer Dean Roch said.

Others talked dollars, citing the festival’s ability to revitalize Lakeville’s economy in the wake of layoffs and a rough economy.

“Who would have thought Lakeville would have people to do all the legwork and take risks only to then give 25 percent of the money back,” one supporter said during the meeting’s public comment time.

Plans outline a 25, 25, 50 ratio in which funds will be divided. Organizers plan to place 25 percent of the proceeds in an account aimed at matching a $700,000 government grant. If met, the grant will rejuvenate Lakeville’s downtown with improved sidewalks, tree lawns and cross walks.

The other 25 percent will cover the property owner who is leasing his land for the festival. The remaining 50 percent will be funneled into an account to ensure events like this continue in Lakeville.

“This would be a disservice to Lakeville and small town America if this measure is not passed,” a Lakeville resident attested.

One music poll found more than 2,500 annual music festivals in the U.S. alone, many take place in small towns like Lakeville, very few ran with a “Woodstock” flare.

“I don’t want to have a Woodstock. I want to have a blues and folk festival. The guys that played at Woodstock are 70 now and have grandkids. We are not inviting Woodstock,” Roch added.

Roughly 500,000 people attended Woodstock in 1969. Two people died from drug and alcohol-related accidents, many against the festival fear the same could now happen in Lakeville.

“I call it the ‘NAF’ issue; nudity, alcohol and filth. There’s a lake on the property, will there be water rescue teams in case someone falls in? What about police presence,” just two of a handful of questions Lakeville resident Joan Stroup posed to the council.

Indiana state bylaws mandate one security officer for every 750 people residing in a single location for more than 18 consecutive hours. If 8,000 people attend, 11 security officers would be needed, a number organizers later promise to triple. Even so, the opposition felt there were additional issues at hand.

“This is an 80 acre property that can easily flood during thunderstorms. There is only one dirt road in and out and this could become a major traffic issue,” one Lakeville business owner said during Tuesday night’s meeting.

In the end, visionary optimism outweighed guarded concern with the council’s green light to let the show go on.

“Everybody needs a first chance to do something great. I believe this is just that,” one local musician summed up.

Last week, the zoning board heard public comment on plans to bring the festival to Lakeville. After hearing from residents, the board decided to send the permit request to the St. Joseph County Council with no recommendation.

The festival is scheduled for July 2-3. There is no word on when tickets will become available.

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