Village debates closing street for festival


St. Paris village council members are debating whether to shut down a portion of South Springfield Street for an annual festival this fall after several business owners raised concerns that ranged from lost revenue to access for elderly or disabled residents.

The Pony Wagon Days Festival, an event that celebrates the village’s history as a carriage manufacturer, has been held for more than 30 years, said Jason Hoelscher, president of the Pony Wagon Days committee. This year, the festival is scheduled for Sept. 5, 6 and 7.

In the past, the village shut down about one block of South Springfield Street and a portion of Plum Street for the festival, which includes a parade, entertainment, vendors and several other activities. The street previously has been closed from Wednesday afternoon to Sunday morning.

However, several businesses along that area of the village have raised concerns about closing the street this year, ranging from fewer customers due to the closed street to poor access for disabled and elderly customers during the festival. A handful of business owners said while the festival itself is a benefit to the village, the location creates problems.

Some business owners along Springfield Street have reported business declining between 17 and 60 percent during the three days the street was closed, said Fred Evans, owner of Tri-County Insurance Services. In addition, other business owners have reported issues such as theft and vandalism during the event.

As many as 15 businesses have signed a petition to keep Springfield Street open for Pony Wagon Days.

“We’re hurting the new businesses and our young people that are trying to start new businesses,” Evans said.

Jim Cole, who owns St. Paris Laundry, said he closes his business every year for the duration of the festival. Cole also raised concerns that firefighters wouldn’t be able to access the business district if a fire occurred while the street was closed. Many businesses downtown are close together.

“Should that happen in any building, the way buildings are built, you’d lose the whole town,” Cole said.

Kurt Roach, who owns C and R Pharmacy locations in St. Paris and West Liberty, said the festival is a good thing for the village. However, he said closing the street can make it difficult for some disabled and elderly residents to get to the pharmacy.

Cole and Evans said they don’t want to do away with the festival, but would like it moved to another location, such as Harmon Park or the Railroad Depot Museum.

This is the first time businesses have raised concerns about closing the street, Hoelscher said.

“I know there have been concerns in the past but not to this level,” Hoelscher said.

He added the Pony Wagon committee is willing to work with business owners, and has offered to close the street later in the day Wednesday as opposed to the afternoon. He also noted other businesses in the village have been supportive of the festival, and see it as an open house to show off their business to potential new customers.

Ideally, the businesses and committee can come to an agreement, Hoeslcher said.

Village council members had planned to make a decision on whether to close the street earlier this month, but tabled the discussion to gather more information, Mayor Brenda Cook said. Instead, they will likely vote on the issue at their meeting Monday.

She said she has heard from both businesses that support and oppose the street being closed.

“I feel like we’ve been talking about this a long time,” Cook said.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Community News

#BlackPantherChallenge sends internet into frenzy
#BlackPantherChallenge sends internet into frenzy

“Black Panther” is one of the most anticipated movies of the year, and thousands of children may have a chance to see it for free thanks to the #BlackPantherChallenge.  Earlier this month, Frederick Joseph, of New York, launched a GoFundMe to help students from the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem “see a black major cinematic...
James Franco, ‘Wonder Woman’ among Oscar nomination snubs
James Franco, ‘Wonder Woman’ among Oscar nomination snubs

Nominations were announced for the 90th Academy Awards‬‬ Tuesday, and although a number of actors and filmmakers and films have multiple noms, some names expected to be called were snubbed. >> Read more trending news  According to The Hollywood Reporter, James Franco was considered by many to likely be nominated for his role ...
Silo collapse in New Carlisle: Facts and figures you should know
Silo collapse in New Carlisle: Facts and figures you should know

Officials are still cleaning up following a grain silo collapse which happened late Sunday night in New Carlisle. The collapse caused 10,000 tons of corn to spill onto Ohio 571, a major road in the city. The roadway is expected to be blocked until Wednesday at the earliest. Until the road is cleared, the Ohio Department of Transportation is recommending...
Inspiration for 'Rosie the Riveter,' Naomi Parker Fraley, dies
Inspiration for 'Rosie the Riveter,' Naomi Parker Fraley, dies

The woman who many believe empowered housewives to leave their kitchens and enter the workplace left empty when men went to fight in World War II has died. Naomi Parker Fraley was discovered in 2015 to have been the inspiration for the “Rosie the Riveter” poster tha decades earlier had become the symbol in which women realized &ldquo...
Police plan to ramp up security at Jackson Browne concert in Florida after threat
Police plan to ramp up security at Jackson Browne concert in Florida after threat

There will be increased security during singer-songwriter Jackson Browne’s concert Tuesday evening at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts after a threat was made at a northwest Indiana church known for its progressive stands on racial and social justice issues, the Orlando Police Department said. Police said banners with racist...
More Stories