County rescues Latino festival

Quiet Waters Park offered for event


May 02, 2001|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

The first Annapolis Latino festival - denied a permit by the city - was rescued yesterday by county government, and will go on almost as planned Sunday, organizers said.

Instead of the city-owned Truxtun Park, however, the event will take place at the county-owned Quiet Waters Park, courtesy of Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens and her Department of Recreation and Parks.

Festival Annapo-Latina, sponsored by the Organization of Hispanic/Latin Americans of Anne Arundel County (OHLA), had been planned since the fall, only to be denied a permit a little more than a week before the event by city officials - noting concerns about the availability of police amid other major events around town the same day.

OHLA's president, Rick Ferrell, said the group will officially accept the county's offer today to use the picturesque park off Forest Drive, about two miles south of the festival's planned site.

"It's an ideal venue, but I never presumed we would get this," Ferrell said of the 336-acre park that has a section overlooking South River's Harness Creek.

"We feel very fortunate that Owens and the county came through for us and rescued an event we feel is very important for the Hispanic community," Ferrell said. "We're sorry the city did not come through for us."

Ferrell said he called Owens shortly after a permit review hearing Friday in which city department heads and several city council members denied OHLA's permit application and recommended moving the event to an alternative date because of safety concerns.

Although city officials gave OHLA a green light for the event last fall, they said police would be spread thin amid the other events - the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Walk and downtown Maritime Heritage Festival.

Dennis Callahan, county recreation and parks director, said Owens called him Monday and asked if the county could help OHLA, an Annapolis nonprofit group aimed at helping newly arrived Hispanics gain access to social services and integrate into American life.

"I said, `We'll do our best,' and our best ended up being one of the finest facilities in the county and very close to the existing [Hispanic] population.

"God works in mysterious ways," Callahan said, adding that May 6 was the only unbooked date on the park's calendar of events. "It's a miracle of sorts."

Callahan said festival organizers have the county grounds to carry out their vision: an alcohol-free cultural celebration featuring arts and crafts, a job fair, displays from government agencies and five bands playing Latino music. The county will provide portable toilets and two extra park rangers to accommodate the expected 1,000 to 1,500 people, and waive the $4 motor vehicle parking fee for those attending, he said.

The only caveat, Callahan said, is that OHLA must waive the $5 admission fee it had planned to charge to recoup event costs. OHLA said yesterday it is seeking corporate sponsors to underwrite the $10,000 event and request donations from those who attend.

At the end of a City Council meeting Monday, Ferrell criticized the city for denying the permit, and termed his meeting with four alderman and department heads distressing.

"That day, I never felt more like a minority," he said.

In addition to security issues, he said, city officials raised concerns about possible noise from the music and the $5 price of admission for an event on public land. Ferrell said he tried to appease the city officials by offering solutions - including private security and moving the music further into the park property - that were rebuffed. "Everything was an objection, an objection, an objection."

Of the 14 city officials in the room, Ferrell said Monday, the only person supportive of the event was city spokesman Thomas W. Roskelly, who chaired the meeting.

Roskelly said yesterday that he is disturbed by any racial overtones in what amounted to a planning snarl.

"The bottom line is that race has nothing to do with it. ... I'm sorry this little bump in the road had happened, and I do consider this a bump in the road."

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