Wednesday, June 11

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Lincoln Sesquicentennial Committee seeks city approval of celebration plans

[JUNE 11, 2003]  Ever throw a party, maybe planned a wedding? How about a really big party, such as inviting the whole community? How about bigger than that, much bigger? The Lincoln Sesquicentennial Committee has been meeting for two years measuring out all the criteria to throw the biggest, best 150th anniversary celebration possible.

The committee came before the city council Tuesday evening with several requests revolving around closing off streets in the downtown square area for the parade and then later for six stages of entertainment. On two evenings it is planned to have one or two beer wagons in the secured area. City council members raised some serious discussion after the sesquicentennial committee asked for the city's approval of plans for the upcoming August celebration.

The downtown streets to be blocked for a secured entertainment area are 1 blocks of Sangamon Street, beginning at Broadway and heading toward Clinton, and the area around the courthouse square, from Broadway to Clinton and Kickapoo to McLean streets. [Click here for map.]

The streets are to be barricaded from 6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 28, to 11 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 31. On the Aug. 29 and 30 there will be one or two wagons selling beer from 5 p.m. to midnight in the secured area.

Greg Pelc from the sesquicentennial committee explained various parts of the plans to the council. He said the committee looked at how other communities have had success at drawing and controlling large crowds. The planners have chosen entertainment and how to handle the alcohol with input from what has worked best for other communities, keeping families in mind.

Mayor Beth Davis, who heads the sesquicentennial committee, said that they have made all their plans with a focus on this being a fun, family time with educational opportunities.

Pelc explained some of the committee's research, strategies and decisions. The plan for the two evenings when beer will be served is that people will buy a special refillable mug and get a wristband to wear. The beer in the special mugs is the only alcohol that will be allowed on the streets, and drinking on the streets will be permitted only in the restricted areas. The area includes all of the staged entertainment areas.

It is believed that allowing a larger area will reduce the likelihood of altercations between inebriated individuals, the presence of families will reduce the individual consumption, and the heavy presence of security will keep things peaceable and well under control.

 

Most of the council members, beginning with Glenn Shelton, raised questions regarding how extensive the area is that is reserved for alcohol consumption during two evenings of the event. Concerns for family comfort, safety, liability, the potential for underage drinking and the message that it sends to young people were all bandied about.

 

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"So, do I understand that the drinking is just in the fenced area?" asked Alderwoman Joni Tibbs.

Mayor Davis answered, "Yes, it is not allowed in the park or any area outside the barricaded area."

Alderman Pat Madigan said: "I find it disturbing how big of an area this is. It only takes one person getting hurt. I would like to see a little more control."

Alderman Armbrust said, "I think you are going to have more of a problem if you put them in a cage, if you fence them in [as in a smaller confined area]." After a pause he said, "I think we ought to just have a celebration."

Alderman Verl Prather said: "Can we compromise. Can we contain it off in a different way; select areas?"

Also at issue were security and medical and emergency access for people and property in the downtown area. The committee worked with Police Chief Rich Montcalm and Fire Chief Bucky Washam to make sure that safety and security would be in order for those attending the event, business owners and those who live in the downtown area.

Chief Montcalm reported that a large force of T-shirted security volunteers, police officers, county deputies and covert officers to prevent underage drinking is planned to secure the event. There will be approximately 50 people providing security in the downtown area each evening.

Chief Washam said that he has worked with the committee, and they have positioned stages, worked out the fire lanes. He thinks that they have it worked out to respond to any potential medical or safety need at the downtown addresses. The fire department will be the command center.

Bill Bates, attorney for the city, said he sees three requests being presented to the city for approval:

1. Closure of downtown streets for the parade route

2. Closure of downtown streets for entertainment, including two evenings when alcohol will be served

3. Use of city property

After hearing all of the plans and reasoning, most of the council members were not prepared to give their consent just yet. The matter was tabled to be discussed again in two weeks.

[Jan Youngquist]

 


Secured entertainment area requested

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