Cuyahoga Falls — Promoter Bob Earley says his summer concert series, Rockin’ on the River, will “officially” come to an end on Aug. 29 in Cuyahoga Falls.
“We sincerely want to thank all of you who have supported the fight to keep Rockin’ on the River in Cuyahoga Falls, but after talking to the chairman of the new festival committee this week, we were informed that there will be several changes for the 2015 season pertaining to the Friday night concert series,” according to a press release issued Aug. 20, by Earley and his wife and business partner, Sandy Earley.
“These include shortening of hours and committee input on both entertainment and vendors. Being that we fund the entire event, we find this unacceptable. It is therefore obvious to us that it’s time to find a new home.”
Mayor Don Walters said the committee has not determined they will be changing the hours and/or changing vendors. “That is not the case,” Walters said. “It is premature to come to any conclusions such as that.”
Earley, who lives in Aurora, has been contacted by officials in several communities located in Summit, Stark and Cuyahoga counties inquiring about the relocation of Rockin’ on the River, which draws over 100,000 visitors annually, according to the release.
Earley has to make a decision on where he will move ROTR by October to organize the 2015 season, the release said.
The city’s new Festival Review Committee was not assembled by Mayor Don Walters to discontinue Rockin’ on the River or oust Earley, according to committee chairman Mike Dunton.
The group’s first meeting drew approximately 100 people to the Natatorium Aug. 18.
“We need a review. We need to see what we’re doing with this $5 million site [the city’s Falls River Square],” Dunton said. “We need to make sure the site is being best used for the citizens.”
Dunton, who is the city’s fire marshal, said there are rumors being spread through social media that the city wants to stop hosting Rockin’ on the River. He said that is not true.
“We’re not here to terminate Rockin’ on the River,” Dunton said. “… We don’t want it to go away. We just want to review it and see if we’re going in the right direction.”
Walters explained the city owns facilities that are rented on a first-come, first-served basis, except for Falls River Square. Because it has the potential to generate income, many would like to rent it, he said. “It’s very desirable to rent,” Walters said. “There’s probably a lot of you out here that think, ‘I’d like to have a crack at that.’”
“There are three ways to select a promoter,” Walters said via email. “First-come, first-served (won’t work, would be a bloody fight to get to front of the line); Invite one person in my office, close the door and grant them every Friday for eternity (bad government) [or] Open, honest dialogue with public input to review all interested parties (the only choice).”
“After the meeting, I was given an autographed ROTR shirt with hundreds of signatures and on it,” Walters said. “The front of it depicts a boot that symbolizes the city kicking ROTR out, which isn’t true. The back says ‘The Last Call ROTR Friday, August 29, 2014. ‘Last call’ seems to imply that they are done. Very confusing message on both parts.”
During the meeting, the mayor introduced the committee members, who are Dunton, Councilman Bob Weinhardt (R-4), Dawn Tallent, Paul Baker, Mike Brillhart, Matt Weiss and Jean Matthews.
The city’s deputy director of community development, Sara Leedham, presented the goals and objectives of the committee which are to provide support to the local community, offer a variety of events that will appeal to Cuyahoga Falls residents, serve as a catalyst for increasing patronage of local businesses, minimize complaints related to the events, demonstrate financial capacity and experience and strive to keep Friday night events in compliance with the Festival Handbook.
Leedham also outlined the request for proposals (RFP) for what is referred in the document as “Riverfest 2015.” The document states a qualifying candidate for event promoter “must be forthcoming with all event information and willing to put public safety at the forefront.” The promoter will have a number of responsibilities including acting as master of ceremonies and staffing each event for alcohol sales, security and crowd control, audio, lighting and cleanup. The promoter will have to have insurance and a liquor license.
The next festival committee meeting has been scheduled for Aug. 28 at 6:30 p.m. in the Erie room at the Natatorium, 2345 Fourth St.