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Fun Fest move gets City Council OK

Fun Fest is officially on the move.

In a special meeting last Wednesday, the New Richmond City Council voted 2-2 on a motion to move the July celebration to Cyclone Park.

Mayor David Schnitzler broke the tie and voted in favor of the move, which will allow the festival to set up in the grassy median between Highway 65 and the St. Croix Press/WITC buildings on the southern edge of town.

"I thought it was a good move," Schnitzler said in an interview after the meeting. "That is what the majority of the Chamber members wanted, to change the location."

Even though the Fun Fest grounds have traditionally been downtown, Schnitzler said the location has created as many problems as it has positive results.

"In the past, we've had businesses close up on the Fridays of Fun Fest," he said.

In the end, Schnitzler said it was an easy vote for him.

"I was all prepared. I could tell during the open forum that it was going to be a tie vote," he said. "I didn't have to stop and think about it."

Council member Ron Volkert, who along with Renee Keating, voted against the move, said he feels the decision is a bad idea.

"It's been downtown since the beginning," he said. "To move it would take away from the spirit of the event, and the businesses may have much to lose."

While he hasn't polled all of the business owners downtown, Volkert said those he's talked to are upset about the move.

"Why move it away?" he asked. "It's been downtown for so many years."

There are many downtown businesses in the ward Keating represents, and the council member said she's heard comments from many people who are against the idea.

"We've got a lot of businesses downtown that are already hurting, why hurt them more?" she asked.

"I don't think this is the answer, but we'll see. I wish them luck."

New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Russ Korpela said he appreciated the debate among supporters and opponents of the idea.

"Everyone wants Fun Fest to succeed. Nobody wants to see it die," he said. "In that way we're all on the same page. We just don't agree on what's the best way to do that."

Now that Fun Fest was allowed to move its grounds, Korpela said he's excited about having six more weeks to promote the community celebration and encourage residents to rally behind it.

"I'm looking forward to putting a lot of energy into this, and showing this will be a wonderful place for Fun Fest," he said.

The Chamber Board of Directors previously voted unanimously to back the location change plan.

Korpela pursued the idea after telling Chamber officials that the festival was declining in popularity and financial sustainability. He warned that unless changes were made, Fun Fest's days could be numbered.