A local business owner and the Boonslick Chamber of Commerce have agreed on a compromise plan to close streets for the Heritage Days carnival next month.
Brad Wooldridge, owner of WJ’s restaurant on Sixth Street, brought his concern to the council at its last meeting. Having the carnival blocking the street in front of his restaurant hurt his business on the busiest week of the year, he said.
Under the agreement reached Monday, the beer garden will be on Spring Street and the First State Bank parking lot, and the carnival would still be on Sixth Street north of the alley next to Boone Medical Clinic, but not on Walnut Street, and not blocking off WJ’s.
Jim Niederjohn, who has long handled logistics and layout for Heritage Days, said the festival was started to bring people into downtown Boonville.
“Get people down there, and get them in front of the business,” he said.
There have been three proposals this year, and the best proposal is the one the Heritage Days committee presented to the council in November, which blocked off Sixth Street in front of WJ’s, Niederjohn said.
A second proposal would keep the carnival downtown, but with less room, Niederjohn said. It also would have left the beer garden with not enough time to set up, he said.
The third option would move both the carnival and the beer garden down to Second Street, near Kemper. That would spread out the activities and hurt the number of people in attendance, Niederjohn said.
“The object has always been to get everything as close as we can,” he said.
The council eventually settled on leaving the carnival downtown with less space after Fourth Ward Councilman Morris Carter proposed the compromise.
“We’re trying to satisfy everybody and there’s no way we’re gonna get everyone satisfied,” Carter said.
Wooldridge said his major concerns were putting what the carnival wants ahead of local businesses, and that he wasn’t notified of the street closing plan until the afternoon before the last city council meeting on May 3.
Anyone asking for a street closure has to contact residents and business owners on those streets and ask them to sign their approval. On the form submitted asking for the Heritage Days street closure, it says WJ’s refused to sign. Wooldridge said he was never asked to sign, so he couldn’t have refused.
Wooldridge met with a member of the Heritage Days Committee and Mayor Ned Beach after he brought his concerns to the council at its May 3 meeting. He said he thought they had come to an agreement, but the council was still considering the same proposal he’d objected to.
Young asked Wooldridge if he would benefit from the foot traffic from carnival rides if that’s all that was in front of WJ’s. A sit-down restaurant doesn’t benefit much from foot traffic, and the carnival makes it more difficult to get to the restaurant from Tuesday through Saturday, Wooldridge said. The carnival could have as much room as it wants on Second Street, Wooldridge said, and he doesn’t have a problem with the beer garden setting up downtown.
“If the carnival found a spot on Second Street, the beer garden could set up in multiple areas downtown.”
The carnival comes to town for one week every year, and then leaves. Boonville’s small businesses work year-round, employing people in Boonville, paying taxes and giving to charities, Wooldridge said.
“If the carnival wants to be downtown, and we can find a spot that does not detrimentally affect local businesses, then the carnival should work with the space that it’s given,” Wooldridge told the council.
Second Ward Councilwoman Susan Meadows said it’s not fair to block access to anyone’s business. There needs to be a long-term solution so the council doesn’t have to deal with the same problem every May, she said.
“I don’t think it’s fair to any business owner, whoever, to block access to their business, and it sounds like this has been a recurring problem,” Meadows said.
There needs to be some solution so the council doesn’t have to deal with the same problem every May, she said.
“I think the best proposal, if you guys can’t work it out, Second Street is the perfect corridor for a carnival.
The carnival has been down on Second Street in the past, and the vendors loved the shade, but not enough people came down there, Niederjohn said. There are ways to get people down there, like trolleys, Meadows said. The trolleys stopped because of problems with kids jumping on and off of them, Niederjohn said.
“Just because it’s been in the downtown area forever doesn’t mean it has to continue forever if it’s becoming a problem,” Meadows said.