Members of the Plymouth City Council heard 1st reading of an ordinance to amend the Code of Ordinances of the City of Plymouth concerning alcohol beverages during the Blueberry Festival. 

Duane Culp, city councilman and President of the Marshall County Park Board gave some background to the council after City Attorney Sean Surrisi introduced the ordinance.  Culp said, “The Marshall County Blueberry Festival doesn’t make the money that everyone thinks we do so we looked at different ways to be able to get things moving in a forward direction.”  There was a meeting in 2020 with several members of the Plymouth Park Board to discuss the alcohol clause in the contract and after discussion it was agreed to remove the limitation of alcohol from the contract to allow for a future beer garden.  Culp said he was unaware of the city ordinance banning alcohol from the park during the festival.

Culp said complete details have not been written yet but at this point they plan to hold the beer garden in the basketball courts on the north side of the park.  The event would be regulated with 2 to 4 staff inside the fenced area.  Culp explained that everything will be regulated, those coming in, the amount of alcohol being served and being sure no alcohol would be let from the fenced area. 

The company the Blueberry Festival is working with is very experienced, handling about 300 events a year.   Culp said he and members of the festival plan to attend some of those events to see how different festivals operate the beer garden.  He said we want to keep it safe and corralled. 

Councilman Greg Compton asked if the amendment was a permanent change.  He was more interested in a one-year trial.

Councilman Don Ecker asked for a written list of policies and procedures.  Culp said they are currently working on such as their insurance provider was also requesting it. 

Councilman Jeff Houin commented that there are multiple layers saying, “Even if we change the ordinance, you still have to get approval from the Park Board on your annual agreement with them.  You have to get approval from your board too.”   

The city attorney said the park board knew about the idea in 2020 and removed that clause from the contract and Culp said the Blueberry Festival board has approved the plan.

When asked what the basic reason for the change was, the Blueberry Board president said during COVID they took almost a six figure hit when talking about finances.  He said it is getting rough and rougher to make up the lost revenue.  Culp said the cost for fireworks go up, the carnival costs increase and when our vendor booth count drops the festival’s income goes down. 

Councilman Randy Longanecker asked about the regulations from the park for the Summer Sippin Brew Fest in River Park Square. The Brew Fest is regulated through an annual contract with the park, approval from the Police Chief and the Alcoholic Beverage Commission.  The current city ordinance on alcohol only applies to Centennial Park during the Festival, otherwise you can have alcohol in the city parks.

Board of Works member Bill Walters also served on the Blueberry Festival Board and even as president of the festival and was a member of the Indiana State Festival Association.  He said, “The people in the festival association look at the Blueberry Festival at the premier festival in Indiana.  Many festivals around the state look to the festival as a model they would like to follow.  He said, “From my experience, if the Marshall County Blueberry Festival decided to do something they are going to do it right.  There’s not going to be a problem, and if there is a problem it will be handled.  The security the festival has is huge and will be safe and won’t be a disgrace to the community.”   

With no further comments the council moved forward.  They only hear the ordinance on first reading and will vote on a determination for second and third reading.