Finish Line Festival conditionally approved

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Selectmen gave conditional approval last week for use of the municipal parking lot on Village Green Way for a Finish Line Festival celebration for the Mount Desert Island Marathon. (See related story on page 8.)

Selectmen voted 3-0 to allow the post-marathon event to use the parking lot after hearing about the plan from marathon organizer Gary Allen and Coda restaurant owner Jim Mitchell at their Sept. 27 meeting.

The conditions set by selectmen include that all vendors provide a certificate of liability insurance, making sure the town’s fire chief is okay with the plan and that emergency services will not be affected.

The marathon, scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 16, starts at 8 a.m. in Bar Harbor and finishes in Southwest Harbor. The timing of the request left selectmen with the need to make a quick decision.

“This is a last-minute effort to put something before you,” Town Manager Don Lagrange told the board. Lagrange later said Allen and Mitchell approached him about their proposal the afternoon of the meeting.

According to Mitchell and Allen, the event will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A stage is to be set up in the parking lot for live music. Three vendors – Mainely Meat barbecue, Atlantic Brewing and Zentopia Gourmet Ice Cream – will serve food and drink. Three nonprofit groups, the Mount Desert Nursery School, St. Jude’s Hospital and the MDI Historical Society also will have booths.

One of the aims of the Finish Line Festival is to keep spectators in Southwest Harbor and contribute to that town’s economy instead of them traveling back to Bar Harbor, Allen said.

“Bar Harbor’s great, but the true character of Maine is Southwest Harbor,” Allen said.

Mitchell and Allen said they had spoken to Southwest Harbor Police Chief Alan Brown about their proposal, and the chief had no issues. The police station and Southwest Harbor-Tremont Ambulance Service are on Village Green Way. Whether emergency services would be affected was a concern of selectmen.

However, this week, Brown said he reviewed the proposal and spoke with Mitchell about modifying the layout of vendors in the parking lot to ensure there would be no issues regarding emergency egress and access. Brown also insisted that Village Green Way stay open for other vehicles. Mitchell was amenable to the changes, Brown said.

Mitchell said this week that sponsorship of the festival is a “group effort,” with the marathon, the Village Green Arts Association, the Southwest Harbor-Tremont Chamber of Commerce and some local businesses involved.

The marathon’s website lists the chamber as the sole sponsor. Cynthia Crow of the chamber said that they are only “tangentially” involved and helped put together the map of the festival site and downtown that is to be included in the runner’s packets. A phone message for Allen seeking comment was not returned by press time.

Asked about the festival’s effect on established businesses in the town, Crow said she didn’t think that would be a problem.

“I don’t think it will pull away any customers from local businesses,” she said. “If anything, it might increase business.”

On the day after the meeting, Lagrange said town officials will be looking closely at the Finish Line Festival to see if changes are needed for it to continue its use of town property.

“We’ll probably take a closer look at it next year,” he said.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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