The Wizard of Oz Festival is a go, at least so far as the Chesterton Town
Council is concerned.
At their meeting Monday night, members voted 4-1 to approve a contract with
the Duneland Business Initiative Group (DBIG), the basic terms of which
grant DBIG the use of Thomas Centennial Park and the Downtown on Sept. 19-20
for the purpose of holding the festival.
Member Dave Cincoski, R-3rd, voted against the motion, largely on the
grounds that, though he approves in principle of the festival’s returning to
Chesterton, he would prefer to see it a one-day affair.
The salient terms of the contract:
*The venue shall be identical to that of the former festival: Broadway from
South Calumet Road to Fourth Street, Third Street from Broadway to West
Indiana Ave., Second Street from Broadway to West Indiana Ave., and South
Calumet Road from West Indiana to the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.
*The Chesterton / Duneland Chamber of Commerce may operate its European
Market on Saturday, Sept. 19, if it wishes to do so.
*DBIG may not charge an admission to the festival but may ask for donations.
Anyone who declines to donate must be given admittance.
*No alcoholic beverages may be sold.
*DBIG must provide proof of liability insurance with a general aggregate of
$2 million and must indemnify the Town of Chesterton from any loss and to
defend any claim or lawsuit brought against the town as a result of the
*The town has the right to refuse any concession booth or event, with
responsibility for this determination delegated to the chief of police.
*DBIG is responsible for repairing any damage to public rights-of-way caused
by the festival. It must also deposit with the town the sum of $500 to be
applied to the repair of any damages at least 10 days prior to the festival.
*DBIG must pay to the town a fee of $25 for each space rented to vendors,
“intended to defray significant expenses incurred by the town resulting
solely from this festival.”
*DBIG must pay all costs of electric and water service for the festival.
*DBIG may hire municipal employees at a rate of $25 per hour to be paid
directly to the employees.
*DBIG must arrange and pay for all refuse disposal.
Cincoski did vote against the motion to approve the contract, although he
made clear to begin with that “in no way, shape, or form am I against Oz.”
Instead, he said, “I don’t believe it needs to be a two-day event.”
Cincoski opened his comments with a few statistics. Around 76 percent of
Downtown businesses are open on Saturday but not on Sunday. Of those 76
percent, moreover, only around 40 percent are likely to see any benefit from
the festival, he said.
Cincoski also noted that the Popcorn Festival in Valparaiso is now a one-day
event but in his survey of Valpo motels determined that they see not only a
bump in business on the Friday night prior to the fest but also a
discernible one on the Saturday night after it.
“If nothing else,” Cincoski concluded,” “this year could be a stepping stone
for next year.”
His colleagues, however, disagreed. Member Jim Ton, R-1st, voiced his belief
that the only way for an apples-to-apples comparison to be made to the old
Oz and the new one is to give the new one two days. “I believe they should
have the chance to see what they can do with a two-day fest,” he said.
For his part Member Jeff Trout, R-2nd, cited the often quoted figure that in
its glory days the Oz Festival brought area businesses $3 million. DBIG, he
said, should identify those businesses and “ask them to help fund this. They
should pay their fair share” too. He added that the Porter County
Convention, Recreation, and Visitors Commission would do well to “pony up”
as well, at least “with some seed money.”
A Bit of History
In fact members spend most of their time on Monday, in their discussion of
Oz, setting the record straight, yet again, about the chain of events which
led Lakeshore Festival Events (LFE) Inc.--the not-for-profit which came to
operate the fest--to leave Chesterton and re-locate at the Porter County
Contrary to a recent report in another newspaper, members observed, the Town
Council never asked LFE to leave Chesterton. It never forced LFE to leave
Chesterton. The Duneland Chamber of Commerce never asked LFE to leave
Chesterton. It never forced LFE to leave Chesterton.
What did happen is this, Trout said. After the Chamber had spun the festival
off to LFE, after the 2004 edition, LFE approached the Town Council and
proposed blocking and closing the public rights-of-way in the Downtown in
order to charge an admission. The Town Council “said no, you can’t close the
Downtown and charge admission,” Trout recalled.
“We weren’t going to allow them to block off streets Chesterton residents
paid for,” Ton said.
“It was also a safety issue,” said Member Sharon Darnell, D-4th. “There
would have been no way to get emergency vehicles in.”
So, miffed by the Town Council, LFE picked up its marbles and moved to the
Expo Center, with the result that four years later it called the whole thing
“You really need to stop bashing the Town Council and the Chamber of
Commerce for something that’s not true,” Trout said. “We weren’t responsible
for its leaving town,” Darnell said. “We are responsible for bringing it