Attendees gather at Crawford Park for the Tasting Peru Festival and EXPO on June 22.
Attendees gather at Crawford Park for the Tasting Peru Festival and EXPO on June 22.
Crawford Park has seen its last festival.

"It's never going to happen again: No festivals," Supervisor Joe Carvin said emphatically at the Rye Town meeting on July 15.

The Rye Town Council started discussing the possibility of changing the policy for renting Crawford Park at the beginning of the summer.

"We have seen increasing activity with what we would call festivals or large events," Town Facilities Manager Bishop Nowotnik said in early June.

Councilwoman Christina Collins expressed her concern about the noise generated at such events-noise that often led to complaints by the neighbors. "I'm also concerned about the amount of money that it costs to bring the park back to good standing," she added at the June 17 meeting.

Wanting to get a move on given the summer season and several large events already on the books, the council decided to hold a meeting specifically about the park's rental policies the following week.

If the council had been pretty certain they needed to develop a festival policy, what happened the weekend in-between the two town meetings clinched it.

The organizers of Tasting Peru Festival and EXPO on June 22 told the town they expected about 174 visitors. Instead, more than four times that many people were present at the peak moment and more than 1,000 showed up at some time during the festival.

While the town was shocked by the turnout, the vendors at the Peruvian Festival were not.

"What became clear is that the festival organizers, quite frankly, planned for more than 700 people. We heard vendors were told to expect 800 people," Carvin said. "I have to say that is really bad form and I'm being as polite as I can be."

After tossing out a couple suggestions, the council asked Nowotnik and Town Consultant Dave Thomas to organize a policy for the next regularly-scheduled town meeting.

Laying down the law

On July 15, Carvin-followed by the board-quickly agreed with two stipulations presented by Nowotnik: strict adherence to the residency process and if 200 or more people are expected, the organizer must present themselves at a town meeting 120 days in advance to get approval.

In the past Rye Town residents could intercede on behalf of a third party. There will be no more sponsoring and all events must have a resident fill out the application and pay the fees.

Nowotnik's third recommendation that anyone staging an event with more than 150 people be required to rent both Crawford Mansion and the pavilion drew some heat from Carvin. "When you have a large group, they tend to take over the whole park," Nowotnik said. Wedding parties, for example, often rent both spaces so they will not have to share the park with other guests.

Carvin did not think it fair to require someone to rent both the pavilion, which seats 150, and the mansion, which has a capacity of 100, and instead said they should just set a maximum capacity for the park. With two independent events at Crawford, the total number of people should still be below 225, he said.

Festivals, or any large event with multiple vendor booths, are now forbidden. For those worried about Rye Brook's annual birthday party, as with most rules, there is an exception. Carvin said the board will likely approve the municipality's event each year. Church picnics should also still be fine as they are not money-making events with multiple vendors.

Put to the test

Almost immediately after setting the new rental policy, it was put to the test-as was the town board's ability to stick to the new regulations.

Lead Pastor Jeremy Ziegler of the Redemption Community Church lives in Harrison but hopes to start holding worship services in Port Chester. As a fun activity for his congregation and a way to get to know the local community better, Ziegler thought to hold a movie night at Crawford Park. He reached out to Thomas about renting the space and was told to come to the July 15 meeting. Not really having any idea what he would be walking into, Ziegler showed up to the meeting and heard all about the policy changes.

He presented his family-friendly event and told the board he did not expect more than 100 people.

"These are the types of events we'd like to encourage," Carvin said. Although Carvin initially seemed open to the possibility of allowing

the event, Deputy Supervisor William Villanova put his foot down. "The policy is to lease to residents and local community organizations. The Town of Rye's parks are for Town of Rye residents," Villanova said. If the Redemption Community Church finalizes a lease to rent space in Port Chester, Villanova said he would be happy to reconsider Ziegler's request.

"Deputy Supervisor Villanova is right. We shouldn't be putting in a policy and then the first request violates it," Carvin said.

"Timing is not on your side," Collins added.

The board said that if his lease is finalized sooner than expected- Ziegler estimates this fall-he should come back and the board would be happy to work with him.

"We love the idea that you're coming into the community. We love the idea that you're family-friendly. We love the idea that you're proposing a movie night," Carvin said. "We'd very much like to support you, but right now it's just difficult to do that in light of-"

"-prior circumstances," Collins finished.

Understanding, Ziegler thanked the board for taking the time to consider his request.