Promoter cries foul over Stillwater parade

  • Article by: KEVIN GILES , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 10, 2012 - 11:17 PM

Proposal for a new summer fest in Stillwater was rejected. Now, mayor's friend is asking to host an afternoon event.

A proposal for a summer parade in Stillwater smacks of cronyism and violates the City Council's recent moratorium related to the failed Lumberjack Days, a rejected festival promoter said Tuesday.

Jesse Kurtz and his partner, Bob Hart of Valley Promotions Inc., had asked the council on March 6 for permits to allow a new festival, including a parade, that they would call Stillwater River Days. But Mayor Ken Harycki told them the city needed to impose a moratorium for the coming summer to recover from a huge Lumberjack Days controversy involving unpaid bills by promoter David Eckberg.

Two weeks later, the mayor proposed that the moratorium be amended to allow a July parade by Summer Tuesdays, a downtown business group. The applicant, Cory Buettner, was a member of the Coalition for the St. Croix River Crossing, which the mayor chaired.

"I got a text message before this meeting from the Summer Tuesday group," Harycki told the council at its March 20 meeting, announcing a plan to put together a parade. The parade, if approved, would include a two- to three-hour event in downtown Stillwater afterward, he said.

The proposal now is moving through the city's special events procedure, with a neighborhood hearing Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Stillwater City Hall.

"We were asking for a parade," Kurtz said.

Kurtz said he and Hart did everything city leaders asked them to do, but then quashed their plan.

"They manipulated this so bad. It's just not right," Kurtz said. "The mayor gets a frickin' text message and walks it right through the council. I suppose he can give it to who he wants to but not without a fight."

Harycki denied favoritism and said the outcome might have been different had Kurtz and Hart applied only for a parade permit instead of wanting to run a festival. "There's a difference in scope between running a two- or three-day event on the waterfront and a two-hour parade," he said.

Buettner, who owns a malt shop on Main Street, said he wasn't aware that Kurtz and Hart had proposed a parade as part of their festival plan. He said he had sent a text to the mayor to tell him that Summer Tuesdays -- a nonprofit group that shows movies on the river bank on summer evenings -- would be applying for a parade permit.

Buettner said he didn't want that announced until he found out whether Summer Tuesdays could afford security and other needs at the parade, proposed for the same day this summer, July 22, that the Lumberjack Days parade would have been held.

"We certainly didn't want to do anything to step on anybody's toes," Buettner said. "We just thought a parade was missing this summer in Stillwater and we applied. I deny any cronyism. I don't know what cronyism is but if it's a good old boys club, I'm not a member yet."

Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037 Twitter: @stribgiles

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