The Littleton Block Party, scheduled for June 8, is canceled. Greg Reinke, organizer of the annual street fair, said permitting for the event — which would be in its 15th year — was hampered by …
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On Monday, May 13, the City of Littleton was notified by the Historic Downtown Littleton Merchants (HDLM) association that the Main Street Block Party, scheduled for Saturday, June 8, was being cancelled.
The City of Littleton notified HDLM on Friday, May 10 that all permits required for the event by the city were approved. Payment of the $150 permit fee was received by the city on April 9. South Metro Fire Rescue approved permits for the event on Thursday, May 9.
“It came as quite a surprise to learn that the Block Party was cancelled,” said Littleton Communications Director Kelli Narde. “We met with the HDLM President Greg Reinke on January 8 and on many occasions afterward to review the new permit, offer our staff assistance, and answer any questions. We had no idea a cancellation was being considered. We’ll continue to support the downtown with events that benefit the merchants and that residents enjoy.”
“The city council has always supported the HDLM and the Main Street Block Party by providing police officers and public works employees at no charge to Mr. Reinke or HDLM. These employees close the streets, keep the area clean, and ensure it is safe for all attendees. We ratified our 2019 budget in October 2018 and approved these same commitments to the Block Party. It’s really disappointing that our residents and our downtown merchants will miss out on this fun, community event,” Brinkman said.
In 2018, the cost of overtime for police, fire and public works to staff the event was $18,310. In 2019 it would have been $16,593 for police and public works. All Downtown Littleton events sponsored by the City of Littleton will go on as planned including: three Little Jam concerts in Bega Park, the Littleton Twilight Criterium, the Candlelight Walk and the Elf Crawl. Western Welcome Week has notified the city that all of its events will go on as planned in August.
Thank bureaucracy for cancelation of Littleton’s Main Street Block Party
By Greg Reinke
Over the last 15 years, the annual Main Street Block Party, presented by Historic Downtown Littleton Merchants, has gotten bigger and bigger— and better and better. Every year, we have worked extremely well with the City of Littleton and its fire department to make this community event happen. As many as 30,000 people from across the metro area have come every year.
Amazingly, we have five stages, two fireworks shows, circus acts, the Creepy Freaky Alley, where anything can happen, beer booths, restaurants—and it all runs like a well-oiled machine. We set it up in two hours and we tear it down in an hour and a half, minimizing disruption to Main Street traffic.
But now a couple of bureaucratic nightmares have done what rain could never do to our parade.
The Block Party, I am sorry to announce, has been canceled for 2019. There is simply no way for the proverbial show to go on with all the new rules being enforced on us. I cannot in good faith throw merchants’ money at a craps table. I have to be a good steward.
The City of Littleton has adopted a whole new event policy, and of course, the city’s voters decided to replace the Littleton Fire Department with Centennial-based South Metro Fire Rescue. Unfortunately, these two governmental agencies failed to talk to each other or to us about their best-laid plans to affect a full slate of upcoming summer events—and not just the Block Party, but the Irish Festival and Littleton’s beloved 91-year-old Western Welcome Week, among others. Our own Turkey Leg-Wine Hoedown is already off the calendar.
Even the city government’s own in-house events—Little Jam and the Littleton Twilight Criterium—are scratching their heads over South Metro’s requirements. Did the right hand of the city know what the left hand of its fire protection was doing?
To Littleton’s credit, city officials have worked with us in recent weeks, even though the community’s nonprofit event planners were not initially consulted about any changes. For this year’s Block Party, Littleton had initially said it wanted 200 portable toilets when the most we had offered before was 30—that was plenty with all the bars and restaurants
happily opening their doors.
Littleton had also wanted 64 handwashing stations—the most we had in previous years was six. That’s $20,000 for toilets and handwashing! We’re a nonprofit. $20,000 is what we pay our top-notch circus acts. Would you rather look at toilets?
And there’s more. We always book five bands for the multifaceted Block Party. The city’s event policies only had room for one band. And so on. Thankfully, city officials listened.
Still, these are things city officials didn’t discuss with anybody until recently—much less with the nonprofit community stakeholders who make these events happen.
That leaves us with Littleton newcomer South Metro, which refused to meet with HDLM and answer our questions until we went through a very lengthy and cumbersome permit process. They declined our application anyway but didn’t give us a reason.
What’s worse, we soon found out the new fees required to put on this event would now be 10 times greater than what the former Littleton Fire Department had charged us for years—going from $150 to $1,500 in one year. Talk about inflation. Are these real costs or profit?
On top of that bill was a slew of incidentals. It seems we can’t use water barrels for tents anymore. We’ve got to use concrete blocks and rent a forklift. For years, Littleton Fire was OK with one open lane down Main Street in the event of emergency traffic. Now, we need 20 feet, according to South Metro, which means two open lanes. That means no room
The Block Party has always been a partnership of nonprofit groups—the Rotary, the Masons, the Elks, Arapahoe Rescue Patrol. Everybody does this for free. It’s a giveback to the community. We simply don’t have the money to do the impossible, as much as we love a good magic show.
All South Metro will tell us is that they are “accredited and correct,” though they can’t seem to tell us why it is “correct” to pay them well over $1,000 to oversee a fireworks show.
Last year, I was told by Littleton that a committee of stakeholders would be formed to develop new rules for community events. If they had actually followed through with that kind of due diligence, we likely wouldn’t have this problem.
Instead, we are paying cancellation fees.
Hopefully, all of this can be worked out in time for next year’s events, so Littleton can again have a memorable summer.
It’s good to be the king—but it’s even better for the community if everyone has a seat at the roundtable. Let’s come up with a plan we can all live with.
Greg Reinke is the president of
Historic Downtown Littleton
The Littleton Block Party, scheduled for June 8, is canceled.
Greg Reinke, organizer of the annual street fair, said permitting for the event — which would be in its 15th year — was hampered by cumbersome bureaucratic wrangling with South Metro Fire Rescue, which took over fire protection in Littleton in January.
South Metro, however, said it worked with Reinke to get permits approved and would like to see the event go on as planned.
“We certainly want to be a good partner in the community,” said South Metro spokesperson Kristin Eckmann. “It's never our intention to change historical events. We know things are new and different after the merger, but our goal is to be supportive and collaborative.”
The surprise cancellation of the Block Party is a disappointment, said City of Littleton spokesperson Kelli Narde.
“It's really unfortunate,” Narde said. “Lots of people love the Block Party. It's great for merchants, residents count on it, and it's the unofficial kickoff of summer in Littleton.” Narde estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people attended last year's event.
Reinke said planning for the event went smoothly with Littleton Fire Rescue in years past, but found South Metro's permit application process time-consuming and overbearing.
“I couldn't get them to sit down with me and just talk things out,” Reinke said.
Eckmann said South Metro personnel stayed in touch with Reinke.
“We spoke with him over the phone multiple times to ensure that we collaborated and worked together to receive all the necessary documentation for the permit to be approved,” Eckmann said.
Reinke also said he was blindsided by the cost of South Metro's permits: $483 for a special event permit and $1,123 for a pyrotechnics permit to cover costs related to inspecting and protecting two fireworks displays. Reinke paid $150 a year for special event and pyrotechnic permitting under Littleton Fire, he said.
The pyrotechnic permit fee covers a plan review, pre-event inspection, oversight during the display, the cost to keep a firetruck on standby and a post-event inspection, Eckmann said.
The final straw, Reinke said, was on May 13 when he found out South Metro would require a 20-foot-wide right-of-way down Main Street, which he said was double what Littleton Fire used to require and would preclude several of the five planned stages for bands.
Eckmann said the 20-foot right-of-way is mandated by international fire code and is essential to making sure emergency personnel can quickly access all areas of the festival.
Asked why he couldn't just host fewer bands or use fewer stages, Reinke said, “Why not just go to Disneyland with all the rides closed? Why don't I just make the Block Party kind of OK? You know why people love the Block Party? Because it's over the top. If you want it just OK, there are plenty of people you can hire.”
Reinke said he also encountered some trouble with the City of Littleton, including a dispute over how many portable toilets would be required, but found city staff willing to work with him.
The bottom line, Reinke said, was that too many “stumbling blocks” were piling up.
“I've learned over the years that if you start hitting a lot of obstacles, when there are a lot of hoops to jump through and there's lots of money involved, it's time to stop,” Reinke said.
The money to run the event comes from the Historic Downtown Littleton Merchants Association, of which Reinke is president, and he said he wants to be cautious with its cash.
“Let's say we roll the dice, and the costs just keep coming in, who's going to pay for that?” Reinke said. “I feel horrible, but this is necessary.”
Eckmann said Reinke can still come pick up the permits if he changes his mind. Reinke said he wasn't aware his permits had been approved and found out from a news reporter.
The special event permit was approved on May 13, according to documents provided by South Metro, the same day Reinke canceled the event. The pyrotechnic permit, which was in its third round following two prior rejections asking for more information, is still listed as unapproved pending a letter of permission from the landowner where the fireworks were slated to be launched.
The back-and-forth over the permits and regulations got to be too much, Reinke said, especially as he is dealing with litigation over the roof of Reinke Bros., the costume shop and Halloween emporium he runs on Prince Street.
Reinke is suing a company that installed a new roof on the building after a 2014 hailstorm, according to court records. Reinke had to empty the store to allow for the roof replacement in 2016 and halted his annual Halloween haunted house, which only returned in 2018.
The newly installed roof isn't up to code, Reinke said, and cannot be approved by city inspectors. Replacing the roof again will likely require him to shut down the shop through the forthcoming Halloween season, the shop's busiest time of year.
“I told everyone I needed to be wrapped up with permitting the Block Party by May 13, because I'm also focusing on the lawsuit,” Reinke said.
But Reinke said he's confident the Block Party will come back in years to come.
“Next year we'll get 10 times the people, because they'll know what happened," he said, "and they'll be excited it's back.”
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