AMHERST - An independent music festival planned for Amherst on Saturday has hit the skids and the person organizing it is pointing his finger at the town and the Downtown Amherst Revitalization Society.
Richard Clark started organizing the festival several months ago without thinking he'd have any difficulty getting permission from the town to use the bandstand at Victoria Square, but is frustrated the town has thrown roadblocks in his way.
"I'm a little angry, but more than that I'm very frustrated," Clark said Monday. "We had a bunch of bands lined up and we're ready to go, but when I put in my application to use the bandstand I was told I had to have $2 million in liability insurance."
Clark said he was told he had to have permission from the revitalization society as well, but when he asked for that permission was told loud music was not something wanted in the downtown during the day.
He inquired about liability insurance, but discovered he could not get insured if the festival included hip hop or heavy metal music.
"I was trying to organize something youth-oriented and wanted to showcase a lot of the bands that are around here and a lot of them are punk bands or harder rock bands," he said. "It's disappointing and makes me wonder a lot. I was basically told they didn't want hard rock or heavy metal bands downtown."
Amherst's director of Community and Economic Development, Roger MacIsaac, is not against a rock festival in downtown Amherst, but thinks Clark didn't do his homework when it comes to getting permits and the required insurance.
"We're not against holding events such as that in the park if it's doable, but things like liability insurance are essential," MacIsaac said. "He has to have proof of insurance so that our insurer is comfortable that we are not responsible for that liability."
MacIsaac said Clark's original proposal was to showcase local talent, then added other acts from outside the community.
Beth Munroe, the chair of DARS, has concerns with the festival and its timing and questioned how well thought out Clarke's plan is.
"I have a business downtown and expect certain standards. I appreciate him coming in, but at the same time that park is bounded by two churches. If someone's having a wedding, the music style wouldn't be conducive," she said, adding she can't lose business because of the noise. "My clientele isn't into hard, heavy music."
There are also concerns with who may attend such a concert and what damage could occur.
Munroe said use of the park is one of the issues that will come up during a consultants' study into downtown revitalization, most notably who has the decision-making power on who can and cannot use it.
The DARS chair is willing to work with Clark if he wants to try again later and with a plan. She feels some of the issues can be overcome, but believes it can't be accomplished in a couple of days.