Montville Parks and Rec exploring beer tent at carnival

Montville — A week after public safety officials pushed against allowing alcohol at the town's summer carnival, the Parks and Recreation Commission said it plans to consult with police and fire department leaders to explore safely featuring a beer tent at the event.

The commission hopes to grow the carnival and officials say proceeds from a beer tent could help cover the cost of a headliner band and fireworks at the event, which tentatively is planned for June 21-24 at the Montville Community Center.

On Wednesday night, commissioners said a proposal to waive rules banning alcohol on public grounds jumped the gun at last week's Town Council meeting, sparking a social media backlash even though the group was still only exploring the idea.

"I understood the uproar," Commissioner Kristin Ventresca said, describing last week's resolution as too broad because it would have waived the alcohol ban "at any time or any form. I think we went from A to Z."

Ventresca said issues like permitting and vending still need research, and commissioners noted they didn't want a beer tent during all hours of the carnival because it is a family event for all ages.

"Baby steps are what is needed," Ventresca said.

Last week, Fire Marshall Raymond Occhialini, Montville police Lt. Leonard Bunnell and former Oakdale fire Chief Gary Murphy cited previous rowdy festivals in Montville and warned against allowing alcohol without tight controls to prevent overdrinking.

Bunnell noted the Lebanon County Fair features alcohol and uses a wristband system to safely monitor sales.

Councilor Jeff Rogers, the liaison between the commission and the council, told commissioners the wording of the resolution stemmed directly from the language of the alcohol ban.

Rogers noted he brought the proposal to the Town Council after discussing the issue with Mayor Ron McDaniel and learning there was no town ordinance preventing a beer tent, just a Parks and Recreation rule the Town Council would have to waive.

Following public safety officials' initial objections, Rogers pulled the resolution last week to discuss the matter further with commissioners.

"We want to do the responsible thing," Rogers said Wednesday, adding if the commission wants to feature a beer tent, it would implement measures advised by public safety officials.

"We will do our due diligence," Commissioner Danielle Butzgy said after Wednesday's meeting. "We will see what security is necessary to put in place to make it a safe, fun event for Montville residents."

Commissioners said in the coming weeks they'd consult with other towns for best practices, as well as nonprofits who might want to take part in either the beer tent or a range of other festivities on the table for the event.

The town could earn a few thousand dollars in profit through a 15 percent cut of ride ticket sales per an agreement with Rockwell Amusements, which handles permitting and other administrative tasks in addition to setting up and manning carnival rides.

That money and anything earned through a beer tent could help pay for bands, fireworks, a rock-climbing wall, a dunking booth and other activities discussed by commissioners and Parks and Recreation Director Pete Bushway.

Commissioners said they would seek entertainment including local musical talent along with high school groups, dancers, gymnasts, martial arts groups and a headliner band.

Public works, police and fire officials have donated in-kind services for the event, according to commissioners and Bunnell.

Locals and visitors will be able to purchase daylong passes or individual ride tickets, commissioners said.

Rogers also suggested offering a discounted pass for all four days "to guarantee people are coming in," and added that commissioners should consider seeking local sponsors to help cover costs in the future.


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