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Council reaffirms alcohol at Cornfest
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 04 May 2011 14:00

Imbibers enjoy samplings of wine at the Pecan, Wine & Antique Festival on Feb. 12. Camp Verde Town Council members voted April 20 to allow alcohol at three town events annually including the upcoming Cornfest scheduled for Saturday, July 16.

The Camp Verde Town Council has officially designated Fort Verde Days, the Pecan, Wine & Antique Festival and Cornfest as the only three annual events on town property where alcohol will be allowed to be sold.

The council has been figuring out how to proceed ever since it was announced that the annual Crawdad Festival was going to be canceled this year. The event was the only other one besides Fort Verde Days and the Pecan and Wine Festival where alcohol was allowed, beer only.

That festival had been organized in large part by the Verde Valley Mounted Sheriff’s Posse for the past two years, ever since the town decided to get out of the business of sponsoring special events for financial reasons. The alcohol sales were intended by the posse to help cover some costs and fund things like scholarship programs.

Last year’s Crawdad Festival didn’t do as well as was hoped and organizers have decided to not try to hold the event again this year.

That prompted organizers of the annual Cornfest to ask the Town Council to possibly allow them to sell beer at this year’s event, scheduled for June. Organizers also said they hope to expand the Cornfest into a multiday affair in order to attract more vendors and visitors to the event.

The town recently adopted a special events handbook, outlining the rules of alcohol sales on town property and the insurance requirements expected from vendors who sell that alcohol.

Still, some members of the Town Council expressed concern over the implications of serving alcohol on town property.

“We’re on a four-day work week,” Councilwoman Norma Garrison said. “Their events take place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Who from the town is responsible for enforcing our rules and procedures?”

Garrison said that she had received phone calls after the most recent Pecan, Wine & Antique Festival last February from people who had witnessed others violating alcohol rules by taking wine outside designated boundaries.

Town Manager Russ Martin told Garrison that while the responsibility was ultimately his, in practice enforcement would be carried out by the men and women of the Camp Verde Marshal’s Office.

Martin said that the marshal’s office has the opportunity before each event to review and offer their advice on plans for alcohol sales and consumption, and that deputies who will be on the site will be made aware of the specific rules governing alcohol at each event.

A proposal before the Camp Verde Town Council at a late April meeting floated the idea of increasing the number of events that allow alcohol sales on town property to six a year.

Paying deputies to work events costs money, and Councilman Bob Kovacovich said he wasn’t comfortable with the idea of having to pay for security at that many annual events.

Garrison said she was also concerned about the possibility of legal liability should an accident take place and that she had talked to other municipalities that had been on the receiving end of similar legal action.

“They will tell you this is not a good idea,” Garrison said.

“I have no problem with people drinking and serving alcohol whenever it’s on their own property, it’s their responsibility and their lawsuit,” Garrison said. “My job is to protect this town as an elected official.”

Garrison said she didn’t think the town should put itself at risk so other people could make money on town property. Mayor Bob Burnside said people liked to use town property because in many cases it could be cheaper than private property, even though he added that many events involving alcohol are held on private property in Camp Verde all the time.

Garrison went on to say that increasing the number of events that have alcohol is promoting a double standard.

“We tell our kids they don’t need alcohol to have fun,” Garrison said. “But then this says that adults can’t have fun without alcohol.”

Councilwoman Jackie Baker said that the town has already done all it can to protect itself in terms of insurance liability and that the town should help the private groups that have stepped up to continue to hold these events in an effort to bring visitors and dollars into Camp Verde.

Baker said the town should either not put a limit on the number of events that allow alcohol, or simply ban all alcohol from events on town property.

Councilman Pete Roulette, who has helped with events in the past, agreed, adding that the people running these events aren’t just pocketing money.

“The reward I got was maybe seeing a few more people find out about Camp Verde, a few more people visiting Camp Verde,” Roulette said.

Burnside said he was also uncomfortable with the idea of six events with alcohol and that people should be able to bring children and their families to events without the need for alcohol.

“If you want to go to a rodeo,” Burnside said, “go to a rodeo.”

Councilman-elect Alan Buchanan, set to take a seat on the council in June, said he didn’t think the number of events should be limited.

“This is still America and everyone has the right to try and make some money,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan said that the council could expect to see this issue come back when he takes his seat.

He also accused Garrison of acting like the “sky is falling” when it comes to alcohol, an accusation she denied.

Garrison said had the council waited for the new council to be seated before addressing the issue, it would have been too late for beer sales to be approved for this year’s Cornfest.

The council eventually approved three events for alcohol sales, specifically identified as Fort Verde Days, the Pecan and Wine Festival and Cornfest. The vote was 5-1, with Garrison opposed. Councilwoman Carol German was not able to attend the meeting.


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