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For one-year trial, council moves Palace carnival

Deadlocked in public opinion, downtown business owners and city council members, Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson cast the decisive vote Monday to move the 2019 Corn Palace Festival carnival location further north on Main Street.

People visit the Corn Palace Festival held at its location between 1st Avenue and 7th Avenue along North Main Street in downtown Mitchell in this file photo. (Matt Gade / Republic)
People visit the Corn Palace Festival held at its location between 1st Avenue and 7th Avenue along North Main Street in downtown Mitchell in this file photo. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Deadlocked in public opinion, downtown business owners and city council members, Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson cast the decisive vote Monday to move the 2019 Corn Palace Festival carnival location further north on Main Street.

The plan is that the festival will be moved north for one year as a trial period, while the city plans to seek a long-term extension with its carnival provider Goldstar Amusements. The council, in its regular meeting at Mitchell City Hall, cited construction on Sanborn Boulevard next summer as being one of the key reasons to make the trial move.

Council members John Doescher, Dan Sabers, Jeff Smith, and Susan Tjarks voted in favor of the change, while Dan Allen, Marty Barington, Kevin McCardle and Steve Rice voted against the carnival move. Everson quickly responded that he would break the tie in favor of the move.

"I've always been a traditionalist and I've always thought the Main Street thing was the way to go," Everson said. "But most of the emails I got were in support of the move. This way, we keep Main Street open during the construction and we can move the Corn Palace rides to the north and we'll see what happens. When the year is over, we can say 'It was a good thing, keep it there' or we can say 'Oh, darn. That wasn't too smart and put it back to where it was.'"

The plan is to seek an extension of the city's contract with Goldstar Amusements for three to five years but to stipulate that the 2019 festival is held at the new location as a one-year trial. Then ahead of the 2020 event, another location decision will be made potentially for the long term.

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The council did agree that the city will need to let Goldstar setup the rides in a way that allows the city and Goldstar to be successful. The festival carnival has undergone a drop in carnival revenue in the last 10 years, dropping 19 percent in that span.

"My main goal in this is to say that when we set it up, we set it up," Everson said. "We shouldn't be out there telling people. He pays us for it and we want to see them do well and we want to do well with the carnival, too."

The approved plan calls for the food and vendors to continue to be located between Fifth and Seventh Avenues, while having the carnival rides and games located north of Seventh Avenue and into the Eighth Avenue and Slumberland Furniture parking lot. Previously, Corn Palace Director Scott Schmidt said the move north would provide more available square footage for rides and a chance for increasing revenue.

Some of the business concerns north of the Corn Palace were appeased by a tweaked plan prior to Monday's meeting. The plan involves splitting some of the parking lots near the Pepsi-Cola Theatre for the Performing Arts, Graham Tire and the TMA Tire and Auto Repair shop to allow for daytime parking for those businesses and their customers.

Smith said that business owners might agree or disagree but that changing the carnival setup shouldn't be the city's concern.

"Regardless of where we go, we have to adhere to the contract," Smith said. "You may not agree with the layout but we have to somehow maximize what we can do with the carnival."

Barington said he voted against the plan in part because of a concern about parking for the Corn Palace shows.

"I think the attendance at our shows will be hurt," he said. "There's just some people who won't park and walk four or five blocks to a show."

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A survey of downtown businesses only surveyed members of Mitchell Main Street and Beyond, Tjarks said. That survey had 19 of 37 voters in support of the change, while 15 were in opposition of a move and three had no preference.

The only local business owner to speak Monday was Jason Bates, who is the owner of The Longhorn and the Big Dummy's bars in the 100 block of North Main Street. He said that he does as much business during Corn Palace Festival week as he does in a typical month.

"Why is that the last few years, one of my biggest competitors is the city of Mitchell?" Bates asked. "If you're not between Fifth and Seventh streets, you're struggling. ... The decisions you keep making are hurting my end of Main Street."

Schmidt also addressed the conversation about potentially moving Corn Palace Festival week to earlier in the summer. He said Goldstar is booked pretty solid, and moving the festival back on the calendar would only cause more conflicts with school and athletic events.

"It seems like right now, it's about as good of a fit as we're going to have with Goldstar," Schmidt said.

Tjarks made the motion to change the location, emphasizing the need to have part of Main Street available for north-south traffic with Sanborn out of commission.

"It gives everyone - people in favor and people against it - a chance to test drive it," she said. "There's going to be uncertainty with having never experienced it but I think next year is the chance to try it."

Bechen zoning plan approved

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In a decision that had a lot of public interest, the city council approved a rezoning request at the corner of West Eighth Avenue and North Minnesota Street, as Bechen Electric seeks to build a new shop on an empty lot there.

The vote to approve was 7-1, with only Tjarks - who represents the neighborhood in question - opposing the plan. The plan was approved at the Nov. 5 meeting on first reading but that was mostly a placeholder for Monday's final vote and eventual approval.

Bechen Electric owner Dave Bechen plans to build a 50-by-80-foot metal building with three large garage doors and two driveways into the building. Currently, the land is zoned residential but Bechen sought to zone the land for transportation, warehouse and commercial use.

Bechen said the campaign against his rezoning effort was accusing him of things he's not going to do, such as hurting area property values and endangering nearby children because of the heavy traffic.

"As a business owner, if I can buy a piece of land and make it work, I just think it's smart business on my part to go after that," he said.

Dwight Stadler, who lives next door to the empty lot, was leading the opposition to the plan. He said he didn't have an issue with Bechen but opposed the type of business he hoped to put there.

Stadler told The Daily Republic after the meeting that he was "very disappointed in the council" and said that only Tjarks represented her constituents.

"In our eyes, it was contradictory to the city's own code," Stadler said. "In the end, our view is that the desires of one person outweighed the views of 138 Mitchell citizens and that is shameful and disgraceful."

Bechen said he was working on some landscaping options and would try to make sure he had a very presentable property.

"I do envision our building looking pretty nice on the outside," he said. "If you build your building right and make it presentable, I don't think there will be issues."

Rice made the motion to approve the rezoning, citing the property's long history along the Eighth Avenue industrial corridor and noting that there were other metal buildings nearby, as well.

"The idea that the neighborhood hasn't had warehouses or transportation is very short-sighted," he said.

Tjarks said the people of the neighborhood have made it respectfully clear that they didn't want to see the property rezoned.

"If that wasn't going to be a factor, why do we send the letters (to neighbors)," she said. "My responsibility is to give the people in that neighborhood a voice."

Notable business

Other notes from Monday's meeting:

• The council had a discussion with Rocky Knippling, of the James River Water Development District, regarding Firesteel Creek water testing. (More on this can be found in a future edition of The Daily Republic.)

• The council also tabled a request from the Department of Public Safety to raise ambulance rates until the Dec. 3 meeting to gather more information.

• Schmidt cited the larger murals on the Corn Palace and wet weather as being primary obstacles in finishing the 2019 murals. He said they're shooting to have the murals finished by the start of December.

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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