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Chive Fest hopes to be among City Park's first major music festivals, despite concerns

Keep Calm and...oh, you get the idea.
Keep Calm and...oh, you get the idea.
Flickr user mclcbooks

Photo-based entertainment website The Chive recently announced that it would hold a two-stage music festival called Chive Fest in City Park on August 16. The event will be among the first major admission-based, for-profit festivals held in Denver's largest park.

Some groups have expressed concern about the impact of Chive Fest, which will feature eight bands, including Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes and Talib Kweli. In response, the City of Denver asked Chive Fest organizers to host a public meeting to discuss those issues. They agreed and will hold that meeting this evening from 6 to 7 p.m in the VIP Room of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

See also: New music festival will bring Edward Sharpe, Talib Kweli and more to City Park

A spokesman from the Chive as well as Austin-based promotion company C3 Presents (which is helping to produce the Fest) will be available for questions. Representatives from the City of Denver's Parks and Recreation Department will also be present.

The meeting is strictly informational and won't necessarily impact Chive Fest's ability to get an admission-based event permit from the City. It doesn't have that permit yet, despite the fact that its $77 to $282 tickets are on sale now. But that's not uncommon, says Parks Department spokesman Jeff Green. "An entity applies for a permit for an admission-based event, and we are typically working with them up until a week out to ensure that they have adequate arrangements for restroom facilities, that they have a parking plan in place and a security plan in place," he says.

"That's something we are working through, and we have no reason to expect that they won't be able to meet those requirements. When it's all done, and when the final payment is made, then the permit will be issued."

Still, some neighborhood groups near City Park feel that Chive Fest is a bad fit. In a letter to the Parks Department, representatives of Park Hill, Congress Park, South City Park and City Park expressed concerns about parking, impact on the park's facilities, noise, security and more. It concludes, "Do you really believe that City Park is the place to hold this type of event in Denver?"

Green acknowledges that there has been some skepticism, but, he says, "we've also received a letter signed by 75 different individuals who are also in the neighborhood who are in support of the event. We've seen more support for the event than we've seen opposition.

"In this particular case, we as a department are not looking at it and making our decision based on who's opposed and who is in support of it. We are looking at it based on facts. If [Chive Fest] meets these requirements, then, yes, this is an allowable event."

Part of the reason Chive Fest has drawn so much attention is that previous festivals have tried and failed to use City Park. In 2008, concert promoter AEG wanted to host Mile High Music Festival there, but it backed out due partly to objections from the Denver Zoo, which determined that the loud music would disrupt the animals.

Keep reading to find how the City's policy on music festivals has changed.  

At the time, the City had no official policy regarding major festivals and other admission-based events. After the debate surrounding Mile High Music Festival (and other similar events), a task force was convened to look into the matter, and in 2010, the Parks Department

approved a policy

allowing admission-based events in seven of Denver's parks: Ruby Hill Park, Parkfield Park, Central Park in Stapleton, Skyline Park, Confluence Park, Civic Center Park and City Park.

"Since that rule went into place and that permit became available, there have been a handful of admission-based events," says Green. "It takes a promoter and a lot of work to go into it, which is probably why we don't have a lot of them outside of the typical venues."

The policy sets an admission restriction at 7,500 for such events and establishes fees and special tax-collection rules. Green says the City will earn roughly 15 percent of Chive Fest's ticket revenue in addition to the permit fee.

City Park has hosted several large-scale events featuring live music in the interim, such as Tour De Fat and Chipotle Cultivate, but neither charged admission, and proceeds from the events benefited nonprofits.

Those types of events -- with free entry and benefiting a nonprofit -- have been more common for several reasons: They're cheaper to host because the additional taxes and fees imposed on admission-based events do not apply, and the Parks Department offers a 50 percent discount on the remaining permit fee for nonprofits. Perhaps more significant, attendance is not restricted: You can apply for a major event permit for over 25,000 if you like.

The neighborhood groups objecting to Chive Fest say it doesn't comply with the admission-based events policy, citing, among other things, the organization's announcement of the festival that claims there will be blimps, fireworks, and oversized ostriches.

"I think a lot of the language that's been out there has been promotional or tongue-in-cheek or something that's an insider joke to people who are Chivers," says Green. "Obviously fireworks, pyrotechnics stuff like that, won't be allowed in the park. That's not going to be allowed."

In addition to police and park rangers, officials from the Department of Environmental Health will be there taking readings to ensure that decibel requirements remain within agreed-upon limits determined by Denver's Municipal Code, which includes special allowances for "festivals and associated activities between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 10 p.m., on the condition that production, reproduction, or amplification of sound may not exceed a sound pressure level of eighty (80) dB(A) when measured from the nearest residential receptor premises."

"If they are violating the terms of their permit, then we have the right to shut it down," says Green. "Rarely have we ever done that." He says can only think of one case when a park permit was revoked -- in 2013, when there was a shooting at the 4/20 rally at Civic Center Park. "In that case, the event organizers practically reached out to us and said that we should shut down the event," says Green. "We've never had a reason to penalize an event organizer because they weren't fulfilling the terms of their permit."

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