Cape Gazette

Friday Editorial

Outdoor festival proposal deserves a chance

Jul 18, 2014

In a rural area of eastern Sussex County, north of Millsboro and between routes 30 and 5, Alex Pires and his Highway One associates propose creation of an outdoor venue to host a few large weekend events including at least one country music festival. The events, on one of the largest parcels of contiguous land under single ownership in Sussex, would involve temporary camping, stages, restrooms, roads, emergency services and other facilities needed for an outdoor venue hosting, Pires estimates, between 20,000 and 25,000 attendees. Most of those, he says, will be campers in all their various tents, RVs and travel trailers, and there will be parking for no more than 2,000 day-tripper cars.

While Pires has asked for a conditional use which would permit up to five events in a single year - with no more than two music festivals - he hasn’t said what other types of events he might be envisioning. He has, however, said there will be “no vehicle road races, dirt bike races, monster truck events or similar activities.”

The application also specifies that many Delaware agencies including DelDOT, Delaware State Police, Delaware State Fire Marshal’s Office, and emergency services, all working in conjunction with a professional festival planner and a Delaware-licensed architect or engineer, will ensure orderly events. He has also specified several other conditions designed to make the events successful and not a burden on surrounding property owners. World Championship Punkin Chunkin has given Sussex experience with multi-day, large outdoor activities. The county has procedures and guidelines to be followed. But Punkin Chunkin is leaving Sussex. This proposal could help fill that void.

Pires and his group also have experience with large crowds and catering, and many successful models from around the country for guidance. Sussex officials should look carefully at this proposal, but also keep open minds. The temporary venue being proposed could bring amazing talent to Sussex and for a few weekends a year bring extra spice to our quality of life. The proposal deserves a chance to prove itself rather than a simple no.

If the events don’t meet expectations and aren’t managed to minimize problems, Sussex County can reserve the right to pull the plug quickly.

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