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Big concerns raised over Big Pig Gig

Residents grill chamber officials on event's location, noise, parking

May 11, 2010

Menomonee Falls — For most people, the Big Pig Gig is a fun-packed, two-day event featuring great barbecue ribs, live music and other entertainment.

But about 40 people who attended a meeting held by the Menomonee Falls Community Chamber on Monday raised questions about another aspect of the festival: potential problems with parking, litter, noise and even health concerns for a family whose members have asthma.

Some of the controversy lies in the location of this year's event. In 2007 and 2008, the festival took place at Village Park and North Middle School. Then organizers took a year off to evaluate the event because it didn't generate a profit.

But organizers are looking to make some money this year, and they believe the key to success involves moving the event downtown. Their proposal calls for closing Main Street from Appleton Avenue to Pilgrim Road to through traffic, and closing the road to any traffic from Appleton to Water Street. The closures will begin noon Sept. 17 and run through 3 a.m. Sept. 19.

"I apologize for any inconvenience this event is going to cause you," Bill Nordstrom of William Nordstrom Jewelers and co-chairman told the group.

Parking, security addressed

Police will monitor the area, checking drivers licenses before admitting residents with vehicles into the closed areas.

"There are only a couple of houses that will be impacted," Community Development Director Matt Carran said.

Because Main Street is a state highway, organizers have received approval from the state Department of Transportation. The plan is to set up a detour that will send traffic south on Pilgrim to Appleton, which will be open during the event.

However, a few residents asked where will people park if Main Street is closed. Organizers said people will park along other area streets and in public lots, and walk to the event.

In terms of security, police will patrol the festival property during the event, Nordstrom said.

The chamber also is looking into private security for the overnight hours.

As for trash, Nordstrom told the residents, "I'm not going to lie to you. There is not going to be no mess."

Organizers said they plan to work with the residents who have concerns by giving out their phone numbers and picking up litter after the event.

Resident Bill Bode, president of Brayton Management Co., which owns several downtown properties, compared the event to Tosa Fest, a street festival held in Wauwatosa.

"I implore you to give two days of your year to your community," Bode told the group.

Noise a major concern

Because her son will perform with Accompany of Kids, Ann Oelerich, who lives on Water Street by St. Mary Parish, said she plans to attend the event. But she asked what she would receive in return for the two days she was giving to her community.

She repeatedly asked for the entertainment to end earlier, possibly at 10 p.m., as a concession to the neighbors who will have to deal with the noise. She wasn't the only one concerned about the noise.

Nordstrom said the entertainment will stop at 11:30 p.m. and the grounds will be clear by midnight each night.

Oelerich noted residents are not allowed to host parties until midnight because of noise ordinances. Carran responded that a special-event permit allows noise later than the ordinance.

The later the festival is open, the later vendors can sell food and beer, said Patrick Yates, owner of FastSigns and a chamber member.

"It's economics," he said. "We can't stop the music sooner.

"We can try to make the community better for you," he added.

Location under scrutiny

Oelerich also questioned the decision to relocate the event. She said residents who live near Village Park and North school knew when they moved in that festivals and other community events take place nearby.

But Nordstrom said the downtown location "showcases our best assets," including Mill Pond, Mill Pond Park and Gazebo, and the chamber office.

Also, there was a conflict with the school district this year. Because of the barbecue competition, the event has to be held during the school year, and it conflicts with district operations, Nordstrom said.

There are conflicts with the downtown location as well. St. Mary's and ProHealth Care, which owns the building that houses Associated Bank, aren't on board yet.

Organizers are seeking approval from both businesses to use those properties for the event. A ProHealth Care official said a decision should be made by the end of the week; the company is trying to make sure the parking needs of its tenants are met first. Plans include the barbecue competition in St. Mary's lot.

Oelerich opposes the use of St. Mary's as she has asthma. "You are going to put smokers in my backyard," she said.

Not a 'drunken bash'

Ric Hartman of Hartman Design and a chamber member said the event is a family-friendly community asset.

"We are not designing an event that is going to be a drunken bash," he said.

The nationally-known Kansas City Barbecue Society will hold one of its barbecue cook-off competitions, which will attract local teams as well as national champions. Besides food and beverages, plans include live music and entertainment, an art fair, a motorcycle show, an open air market, a business expo, a children's area and more.

FYI

WHAT: Big Pig Gig

WHEN: 4 to 11:30 p.m. Sept. 17; 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sept. 18

WHERE: downtown Main Street along the Menomonee River

CONTACT: Community Chamber, (262) 251-2430

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