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Canton considers extensive special event policy

fr cantonfestsEvent organizers may have to go through a more thorough application process if the Canton Board of Aldermen adopts a new special events policy.

During a recent board work session, Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss said the board passed two ordinance amendments last year related to street closures and alcohol consumption during special events. Requests for closures and alcohol for events has to be approved by the board, which means an ordinance and application process is needed to ensure public safety and to protect town assets. 

“It should be on the promoter to think through all that in the application,” Hendler-Voss said. 

Angela Reece, a Western Carolina University graduate student, did the research and drafted a special events policy for the town as part of her capstone project for her master’s degree in public affairs. As a lifelong resident of Haywood County and a current Canton resident, she said she wanted to help her community in whatever way she could. 

The board will look over the proposed ordinance and discuss it in more detail during its next meeting.

Reece’s proposed policy outlines exactly what promoters are responsible for and walks them through the entire process. Applicants would be required to:

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• Have a pre-application meeting with town staff to explain the policy and for the town to gain details about the event.

• Complete an application at least 120 days before the planned event or within 60 days of the last event if it is a regular annual event. 

• Pay a $250 refundable security deposit at least 90 days before the event. 

• Pay the rental fee associated with the venue being used for the event ($50-$150).

• Pay additional fees for fire or police to work an event ($20 per hour).

• Must have a $1 million general liability insurance policy at least 30 days prior to the first day of the event. If the event includes alcohol, organizers must have liquor liability coverage as well.

• Are responsible for food vendors, trash disposal, minor traffic control and parking, tents and equipment, clean up, etc. 

• Apply for an alcohol permit through the state. Unless an exception is approved, the Canton Police Department maintains a 10 p.m. curfew on alcohol consumption for all special outdoor events on public property. 


Fourth of July sponsorship

The town also is examining its co-sponsorship policy for special events. Currently, the town is a regular co-sponsor for Relay for Life of Canton, FOCUS of Canton’s summer carnival, Shining Rock RiverFest, Pickin’ in the Park and the Armory, Easter egg hunt, the town’s Christmas parade and Fourth of July festivities. These events receive cash contributions and/or in-kind donations in exchange for public safety and cleanup service. 

While the town is happy to contribute to these signature events, Hendler-Voss said there needs to be parameters to ensure the town is recognized for its efforts. He recommended only offering co-sponsorships to nonprofits with a Canton charity impact or corporate events only if they have an economic development impact.

In exchange for a sponsorship, he said the town should require its logo be placed on all promotional material. He added that events already being co-sponsored by the town would be grandfathered in to the new policy.

The Fourth of July festivities in Canton have been privately funded for the last few years since the past board no longer wanted to pay for a fireworks display. Hendler-Voss asked if the board wanted to make any changes with the event this year. 

Champion Credit Union stepped in to pay for the fireworks once the board didn’t want to pay for it, and Mayor Mike Ray said he and his wife paid for everything else for the event, including food, a DJ, advertising and clean up.

“And I want to continue that as long as I’m mayor,” he said. 

The question is whether Fourth of July festivities should be a town produced or co-sponsored event since the town provides public safety services.

Alderman Carol Edwards said she didn’t see any need for it to be a town-sponsored event since Ray took care of everything.

“There’s no sense in sponsoring it — it’s always been their baby and it’s something they want to provide for the community,” she said. 

Ray said he understood if the town wanted credit for providing services.

“That’s the least the town could do when someone is providing that service,” he said. 

The board agreed it should be a co-sponsored town event so the town could help promote it. 

“If that’s what you want to call it,” Edwards said. 

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