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Fitchburg Days

Fitchburg Days organizer Jay Allen said he's canceling this year's event after the city council denied it a liquor license. 

The organizer of an annual Fitchburg festival said he’s canceling it after city leaders denied the event vital permits amid concerns about its security.

The Fitchburg City Council denied the festival an alcohol license at a Tuesday meeting and a city committee had previously denied a permit for amplified sound.

Public safety at the festival, which wasn’t organized by the city, had been a concern after large-scale juvenile disturbances at last year’s event.

While council member Daniel Bahr said he’d like to see more community events, it was “time to take a pause” because of resident safety concerns and to come up with ways to eliminate security problems for future festivals.

“What it boils down to is the neighbors,” he said. “I think we want to collaborate with anyone who’s interested in putting something together but there are public safety concerns.”

Fitchburg Days, which was originally scheduled for May 17-19 at McKee Farms Park, will be permanently canceled because it won’t have an alcohol license or sound permit, said organizer Jay Allen.

Allen said the City Council “won’t have this issue to deal with ever again.” He said he won’t attempt to set up any more events in Fitchburg because working with the council is too difficult.

“I will not propose this again,” he said.

Allen said he had worked with city staff to resolve safety concerns but no council members reached out to raise any problems.

“I would have expected someone to have at least made a phone call to me because we’ve been meeting with the police department,” he said.

Police Chief Chad Brecklin said Allen had agreed to increase security at the festival, which dated back to the 1970s.

He said the organizers had agreed to close the midway earlier at 7 p.m. The organizers also offered to add surveillance cameras, portable light towers and pay to have an increased police presence.

Last year, two boys, ages 15 and 16, were arrested. Two others of the same age were issued citations, and three other battery complaints were reported.

Police closed the midway early on Friday and pre-emptively limited the hours on Saturday to avoid any more disturbances.

“Unfortunately, in the past few years there has been a small group of juveniles intending to cause trouble,” Brecklin said. “It seems like things happen to build as the night goes on and gets dark.”

City administrator Pat Marsh said the organizers had not fully paid all of their vendors. Allen had also told city officials and a City Council committee that he would be unable to pay a $5,400 deposit before the festival.

Allen said he already had about $14,000 in contracts for this year’s event and hoped the city would reimburse him for the $1,100 he had already paid in fees.

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Shelley K. Mesch is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She earned a degree in journalism from DePaul University.