Note: This story was updated at 10:36 a.m.
They’ve heard concerns about moving it to the fall, and the Oak Ridge City Council on Monday did not change the date of the annual Secret City Festival. Instead, Council left any potential date change up to a new nonprofit board that could be appointed in October.
It was one of a series of steps meant to make the Secret City Festival less costly for the city and less labor-intensive for the municipal staff, to rethink how it’s organized, and to make it self-sustaining. The festival could be incorporated into a new, expanded Secret City Celebration that could include other events.
A Special Events Advisory Task Force appointed by City Council in February had recommended moving the festival to the fall as part of a celebration that would last at least a week, start in October, and continue through Veterans Day, November 11.
But Council members and a few residents laid out some objections to the proposed date change, including “dicey weather” in the fall; the potentially cold temperatures, especially for nighttime concerts; conflicts with football and other fall events; and concerns over the possibility that the festival could again become saturated with political candidates in election years, now that municipal elections have been moved to November. There were also concerns about whether some organizations that now participate in the June festival, including artists and World War II re-enactors, could take part in the fall.
“At this time, it doesn’t make sense to move the schedule to the fall time period,” Oak Ridge Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Smith said.
“There is clearly a lot of conflict trying the find the right spot in the fall timeframe,” Council member Chuck Hope said.
The Task Force had proposed moving the festival to the fall for a few reasons: It is cooler in the fall, children’s groups could be integrated, it could be coordinated with the schools’ two-week fall break, and it could tie into other local events, including Wounded Warrior and Fall Jamboree events at Windrock Mountain north of Oliver Springs and the Secret City Head Race at the Oak Ridge rowing course. There are also the beautiful fall colors in East Tennessee, and vendors from the former Foothills Fall Festival, which ended last year, need a place to go.
But on Monday, Oak Ridge City Council member Kelly Callison proposed that the new nonprofit pick a date based on its research. Other Council members agreed, and Council unanimously approved a resolution that will expand the Secret City Festival into a celebration with the date selected by the new board, last at least a week, and include the Secret City Festival.
Also Monday, Council unanimously agreed to direct the city manager to start a process to set up the new nonprofit. The single-purpose organization will be responsible for implementing the Secret City Festival or Celebration, with the goal of making the event self-sustaining in five years.
Council members endorsed the idea of spreading the festival out over several days or possibly longer as part of a re-invention of the festival, which could become something other than a two-day festival. The Task Force, which was chaired by Council member Trina Baughn, had looked to the Dogwood Arts Festival in Knoxville as one model.
The new 14-member nonprofit board could include six members of the Task Force who have agreed to continue serving and eight more that are elected or appointed by Council in October. It could also include non-voting ex officio members who represent community organizations with specific areas of expertise. Examples could include the Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau, American Museum of Science and Energy, Arts Council of Oak Ridge, Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge, and the Oak Ridge Recreation and Parks Advisory Board, although the appointments will be up to the new board.
The new nonprofit will use the new festival or celebration to honor the arts, history, science, and culture of Oak Ridge, either directly or indirectly with other organizations.
See previous Secret City Festival stories here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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