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Joyce Endee

After venue change, FoamFest still a no-go

June 17, 2009
WHITEFIELD — After being told he couldn't hold his end of school concert in Lancaster, Chip Cross went looking for a new venue and found one. Jeff Woodburn, a columnist for this paper and a former educator offered up the King's Square property known as the Woodburn House in Whitefield for the event. But even that, it seems, isn't enough to get FoamFest off the ground.

The concert — highlighting local talent with the added draw of a foam machine that produces bubbles for the audience to dance in — scheduled for this Saturday at 1 p.m., initially had a slate of 10 local bands and was expected to draw 200 or more spectators. The venue change and other factors has led to a downsizing, Mr. Cross said. Now only two bands are expected and, likewise, he anticipates the expected crowd will shrink. Posters advertising the event at the new location, however, list eight participating bands.

Despite scaling back, once more Mr. Cross finds himself a concert promoter without a venue. Mr. Woodburn had offered his property with the condition that Mr. Cross get the proper approval from the town. Police Chief William Colborn said he told Mr. Cross he'd need an ambulance, security and a permit to assemble. As of Monday, June 15, none of that had been accomplished, but Mr. Cross said he planned to get the assembly permit from the fire department in the days leading up to the concert. After discussing the matter with Chief Colborn, however, Mr. Woodburn said the concert would not be held. "If that's his judgment then I trust him," Mr. Woodburn said after the police recommended the event not take place due to concerns about crowd control and the potential for personal injury from moshing — "the activity in which audience members at live music performances aggressively push or slam into each other. Moshing is frequently accompanied by stage diving, crowd surfing, mic swinging, smashing instruments, and headbanging." (Wikipedia)

Mr. Cross said that he was under the impression the ambulance and formal security would not be required since the Woodburn House is privately owned, but conceded that those items had been brought up by Chief Colborn when Mr. Cross brought up the Highland Street park (soccer field) as a possible venue. Chief Colborn acknowledged that the park on Highland Street had been discussed, but use of that property would have required permission from the selectmen, which Mr. Cross opted not to seek.

"We just like ditched the idea of having it on town property," Mr. Cross said, explaining that having to hire the ambulance and security detail wasn't feasible.

In addressing the concerns about moshing happening at the concert, Mr. Cross downplayed the danger. "It's pretty easy to get out of a mosh pit," he said, noting that those who did not want to mosh could just stay away from the area where others were engaging in that behavior.

In a Monday morning interview Chief Colborn said that he was not convinced of Mr. Cross's ability to control a crowd and was concerned about the capacity of the downtown property to hold the concertgoers and their foamy festivities. "It's just not an adequate venue for it," he said. He added that he felt there was a lack of planning for the event and the potential draw for something like this could result in overflow of the revelers into Kings Square. Mr. Woodburn agreed that after conversing with Chief Colborn his building and yard was "not the appropriate location for something of that magnitude."

Mr. Cross said that he had arranged for "security" of a sort in that he had five adults who had agreed to oversee the event. He also took exception to the idea that he had not put sufficient planning into the FoamFest. "I've planned this for months," he said, adding he couldn't see why the event wouldn't happen.

Mr. Woodburn was reluctant to rescind his permission, especially since he approached Mr. Cross after reading about his venue woes when the Lancaster location was ruled out, but said he could see where the planning may need to be tweaked. "It's too bad because I don't think we do enough stuff like this for local kids," he said. Mr. Woodburn said he saw this concert and his involvement as a way to build trust across generations. "I saw this as an opportunity to try to build that trust, but it might be a case of too much, too soon," he explained. Mr. Woodburn did say, however that he would be willing to lend his assistance to Mr. Cross to help with more methodical planning that could possibly make the event happen at a later date. He also pointed out that it has been 40 years since the concert at Woodstock and wondered if this sort of event was much different.

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