PALMETTO -- By a margin of 3-2, Palmetto officials on Monday voted to approve a Fourth of July special function permit for its fifth annual festival in and around Sutton Park. A decision to sell alcohol and to initiate a $5 admission price for the Craig Campbell and Rodney Atkins concert prevented a unanimous vote.
The new admission fee means the city will fence off the concert and have gates for paying spectators to enter.
The decision to allow alcohol sales at a city-sponsored event has typically led to a split decision vote with Ward 2 Commissioner Tambra Varnadore holding consistent with her opposition. Varnadore, who has not taken issue with other privately-run festivals selling alcohol, said the city should set a better standard.
"The city has an obligation to educate the youth that alcohol use is dangerous and here we are promoting it at a Fourth of July event," she said. "I can't support that. What sets the Fourth of July festival apart is that it's supposed to be a city event. The taxpayers are paying for this and it should be a family-friendly event."
Varnadore was joined in opposition of approving the permit by At Large Commissioner Tamara Cornwell, who did not address the alcohol sales, but cast her "nay" vote because of the decision to charge admission to the concert.
I understand you have to do something to curtail costs to bring in higher-end musical groups," she said. "However, on the other side, it's always been a great festival that everyone can go to and enjoy the music. I'm not real certain I like the idea of everything being fenced off and I'm not for the charging of fees. I just don't see how this would be inviting to everyone."
ment Agency Director Jeff Burton said the CRA invested about $100,000 to bring Atkins star power to the stage. He said it's a minimal fee to help offset those costs and considers $5 a bargain to see a concert of this magnitude.
Atkins had six No. 1 hits off of his first three country albums, including "Watching You," "If You're Going Through Hell," and "These Are My People," with "Farmer's Daughter" topping the charts as his latest mega hit. Atkins takes the Sutton Park stage at 7 p.m. with rising country music star Campbell, who opens at 4 p.m. Campbell has recently climbed into the Top 10 country music charts with "Keep Them Kisses Comin" off his second album and "Never Regret," to back up three hits off of his self-titled debut album.
Atkins will play until 9 p.m., at which time the Fourth of July fireworks show will begin off the Manatee River, a joint venture in sponsorship between the Palmetto CRA and the city of Bradenton.
Varnadore opposed the sale of alcohol and charging admission, but specifically opposed the idea of allowing people to carry alcohol throughout the event grounds. The remaining commissioners debated the issue, but after receiving assurances that the city has had no ill effects from prior festivals, Vice Mayor Brian Williams along with Commissioners Jonathan Davis and Harold Smith voted in favor of issuing the permit, as well as initiating the fee.
The concert area will have two admission gates that will sell wristbands to allow concert goers to leave the concert area and return as desired. The city also is offering a donation opportunity of five cans of food instead of cash that will be put toward the Mayor's Feed the Hungry program. Children under the age of 10 will get into the concert for free.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.