WILMINGTON, MA — The Wilmington Board of Appeals recently granted the Wilmington Fourth of July Committee a special permit to run a carnival during this summer’s Fun on the Fourth celebration.
The Board set a condition that the carnival, which will be held in the Fourth of July Building’s parking lot, have no more than 15 rides, with an even number of rides divided between “kiddie” rides and “big” rides. (If there are 15 rides, the committee can determine whether the 15th ride be a “kiddie” ride or “big” ride.)
Wilmington Fourth of July Committee Chair Scott Garrant was not happy with the condition.
“I don’t understand the basis for limiting [the number of rides] to 15,” Garrant told the Board. “I don’t have a problem complying with, but do I like it? No.”
During the 60-minute discussion, Garrant asked the Board to place no limit on the number of rides, but – instead – leave the number up to the expertise of the public safety officials. This was a different approach than previous years. In 2018, for example, Garrant asked for 12-15 rides, and was granted 12-14 rides. The carnival wound up with 14 rides.
“As has always been the case, the final approval of the number of carnival rides and the sighting of the rides and booths are under the jurisdiction of the fire department,” said Garrant. “It has been conveyed to me by the Fire Department that the space in the [Fourth of July Building’s] parking lot can handle more than rides than has been situated there in the past three years… It’s been conveyed to me by the Deputy Fire Chief that the Fire Department is more than wiling to undertake a determination of how many rides can safely be there.”
“We could put as many as 16-18 rides in without a problem,” said Cushing Amusements owner Larry Cushing later in the meeting. “We’re looking to fill the space in a little more to give some of the other kids what they deserve for rides. That’s basically what it comes down to. After 16-18 rides, there’s no more space to work with.”
Garrant had several respectful back-and-forths with board members questioning the need to increase the number of rides.
“If everything has been going great over the past few years, my opinion would be to keep it the same,” said Board of Appeals member Jacki Santini. “I wouldn’t be in favor of adding more rides. I’d like to keep the status quo.”
“Respectfully, on what basis?,” asked Garrant. “Because I don’t feel I’m qualified to determine how many rides can be there safely, but the Fire Department is.”
“Everything was fine the last two to three years. Why not just leave it the way it is? There’s been less problems,” responded Santini.
“[Adding more rides] makes it more attractive to older kids,” answer Garrant. “This is my 22nd year involved. Once the kids get to high school, they really don’t come down anymore for the rides. And the kids from the Middle School come down and [are disappointed] there’s only 4-5 rides for them.”
“What is one extra ride going to do, besides make more profit?,” asked Santini.
“I’m not here to talk about profits. I’m not interested in the carnival’s profit… [More rides] makes a more attractive event for the kids to come down,” emphasized Garrant. “We hear the kids saying that the carnival is too small. The carnival doesn’t have enough good rides. The carnvial doesn’t have enough rides for us. Let me ask — what’s the harm in providing them 1-2 more rides if the Fire Department can maintain safety?”
“I’m still not for it,” answered Santini.
Board of Appeals Chairman Dan Veerman did not want to grant the special permit without a specified number of rides.
“I’m not comfortable with leaving it open-ended. I want to know right now how many rides will be there…,” Veerman told Garrant. “I like predictability. Everyone has been telling me how great this has been for the last few years. I don’t want to see a slow creep and it start to get bigger and bigger and becomes a little unmanageable.
“If you had 14 rides last year, and 14 rides the year before, what’s wrong with 14 this year?,” asked Veerman.
“There’s room to make it more attractive for families to come down,” said Garrant.
Veerman also stressed his desire that the carnival consist of an equal number of “kiddie” rides and “big” rides, saying it was even more important the number of rides. Veerman noted that while the application says the rides will be divided equally, and Garrant said that has been the carnival’s practice, Veerman pointed out that the map attached to the application consists of 9 “big” rides and 5 “kiddie” rides.
“I’d like to see an equal amount,” Veerman repeated multiple times through the meeting. “Usually when we have a plan attached to the application, and we approve the application, we strictly adhere to the plan. I know the verbiage says the carnival will have an equal amount, but if we approve a plan that has 5 vs. 9, we’re putting ourselves in a box. I like the feel of the carnival when it’s geared towards families. If we could hold you to what you say in the application, I’d certainly be in favor of that.”
“From a profit standpoint, we’d love to have 15 large rides and 2 kiddie rides,” responded Garrant. “I’m very mindful of two factors. 1) We want to keep it an equal balance and will require it. 2) We want to keep the kiddie rides closer to School Street because of the noise factor.”
“I’d be comfortable if we made a condition that there be an equal number of kiddie rides and big rides,” said Veerman. “The celebration has been wonderful. I live right there. I’ve been there. I’ve been very impressed with the way it’s been done. Safe. Family. Wholesome. Great Experience. I have nothing but great things to say. No problem with it. Fully in support of it. I want it to remain the family-friendly atmosphere it is now.”
Garrant believed the board was overstepping its authority.
“The section [of the bylaw] under which we’re applying says that you can approve a carnival provided such uses as limited to appropriate restrictions on the number of days and hours of operation,” said Garrant. ” I understand your purview is greater than that under the special permit bylaw, but going forward, I want to know (a) what’s feared about having a couple of more rides? and (b) where, in the bylaw, does it say you can dictate the character and quality of the even?”
“You [dictate the character and quality] in your application. You said an equal amount of ‘kiddie’ rides and ‘big’ rides, and I’m giving you an extra ‘big’ ride. I’m giving you what you want. It’s important we get this in writing,” responded Veerman. “This is an evolving process. We see how things work. If something doesn’t work, next year we can tweak it…. Why mess with something that’s fantastic? The character of this event event is a wonderful thing. I want to make sure it stays that way.”
“And I think that’s beyond your purview — to start judging the character of the event,” Garrant shot back.
“We have to approve the dictates of what is that carnival,” answered Veerman. “Are we going to have burlesque shows? Up in Maine, the carnivals are a lot different from what they are up here! They have trailers — you go into them and divorces come out!”
“I feel we do have the right to dictate the flavor, size and scope of that event,” added Veerman. “I’m giving you what you want. You wanted 15 last year. They didn’t give it to you. I’m comfortable giving it to you as long as it’s equal divided between “kiddie” rides and “big” rides.
Board of Appeals member Thomas Sircausa agreed with Garrant.
“I don’t think the board should be in the business of determining the number of rides,” argued Siracusa. “If he puts rides in there that are acceptable to police and fire, I believe that should [suffice]… I don’t understand where this board is coming from in terms of determining rides and sizes.”
“I respectfully feel you’re wrong,” said Veerman.
“I respectfully disagree that this board can make a determination… on types of rides and quality of rides,” said Sircausa. “I really believe that is moving past what our privy is.”
“The byalws say that someone has to come before us to run a carnival. We get to choose what type of carnival it is,” said Veerman. “We have the ability and the obligation to determine the size and scope – and the flavor – of this particular event. I want to make it palatable for everybody, but I also want to keep it the way it’s been for the past three years.”
The Board of Appeals ultimately unanimously approved a motion by Santini to approve the special permit with the number of rides not to exceed 15, with 7 ‘kiddie,’ 7 ‘big,’ and the extra to be determined by the applicant. The Board also added conditions requested by the carnival operator regarding set-up and drop-off times.
The carnvial will run on Wednesday, July 3, from 6pm to 10pm; Thursday, July 4, from noon to 10am; Friday, July 5, from 6pm to 10pm; and Saturday, July 6, from noon to 10pm. Sunday, July 7 will serve as a rain date. The carnvial would run from 1pm to 10pm.
Family Fun Day is Thursday, July 4. The Spectactular Fireworks would take place on Saturday, July 6. The location of the key components of the celebration would remain the same as they’ve been since 2016. The celebration’s longstanding traditions — concerts, meals, non-profit booths, games, etc. — would continue.
Watch the meeting, courtesy of Wilmington Community Television, below. The discussion begins at the 1-hour, 3-minute mark.
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