Name change required for September’s Pepfest Country Music Festival in Willmar – West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — After event organizers have already spent about $77,000 on marketing and publicity for the Pepfest Country Music Festival, the name is due to change, according to the lease agreement approved Monday by Willmar City Council.

Due to the record of Pepfest Country Music Festival organizer Steve Peppin running for mayor of Willmar, Willmar City Council made the decision to approve a lease for the event which required Peppin to change the name of the festival. Steve Peppin told the board he had already spent $77,000 marketing and advertising the event as Pepfest Country Music Festival.

Jennifer Kotila / West Central Tribune

The council approved the lease agreement for the country music festival at Robbins Island in a 6-2 split vote. Council members Rick Fagerlie, Julie Asmus, Tom Butterfield, Michael O’Brien, Audrey Nelsen and Andrew Plowman voted in favor of the lease; Justin Ask and Vickie Davis voted no.

Although there are no legal issues with the name Pepfest, according to City Attorney Robert Scott, he and city staff advised changing the name so the festival would not appear to be promoting a candidate. At the mayor.

The event organizer is Steve Peppin, who announced his candidacy for mayor after receiving permission from council on May 16 to move forward with city staff in drafting a contract to rental for the festival, which will take place on Saturday 10 September.


Robert T. Scott, Willmar City Attorney Courtesy of Flaherty and Hood, Pennsylvania

“To be clear, it’s not a legal issue,” Scott said, noting that the board could allow the event to go ahead with the Pepfest name, as Peppin requests, but that the rental agreement as drafted should be modified.

“Regardless of intent, I think there’s a benefit to name recognition of having an event that bears your name or part of your name…and when you’re running for local office, that can have the effect of increasing your brand awareness and name recognition, which can absolutely have an impact in a race,” Scott continued. “The board will not do anything illegal if it decides to allow the name to go forward as originally proposed.”

He explained that the only legal consideration would be to give equal time to another candidate if he made a request similar to Peppin’s.

Stating that he has given his word that he will not campaign for mayor until after the event, Peppin told the council: ‘It’s my dream and it’s about giving this community something special , far greater than any mayor could ever give. The mayor thing is just a title, something I don’t need. Pepfest is a brand that started in 2012.”

He explained that his brand – Pep – stands for “people engaging people”. It is a strong and strong mark in the community, he added.

Mayor Marv Calvin agreed that Peppin has a strong brand and Peppin does good things for the community, but noted that things change when someone becomes the mayor of said community.

“If you’re asking me to shut down a brand – to shut down a business that I started a long, long time ago – if I do that, might as well start all over again, might as well undo what my team and I are doing together and watch it next year,” Peppin continued. “If that’s the case, and if I’m mayor next year. Can I do that?”

Scott explained that this would be a problem because it is against state law for a mayor or council member to speak or vote for things that may benefit them financially. It should be noted that the Mayor of Willmar is not a voting member of council and only votes if it is necessary to break a tie, according to the town of Willmar charter.

Explaining his discomfort at forcing a name change, Plowman said, “…The reason it’s a gray area for me is because it’s not really a full name. It’s kind of a pun. …I feel like he could possibly fall into a gray area. I agree 110% that this shouldn’t be a political event at all.

He also wondered how damaging it could be to change the name if it’s already announced, as well as what kind of message it sends to future promoters looking to stage events at Willmar.

“I appreciate the brand – your company is Pep’s, which was your company before you took office,” Asmus said, noting that things changed for her when Peppin ran for mayor and she didn’t think not that a name change would change the success of the event.

“(People) are going to the event because of the music and the venue, and it’s going to be great. I think it’s great to bring something like this to town.

Conditions of the lease contract

The lease agreement is with Peppin’s Studio 38 business, and the city attorney helped draft the lease after city staff and Peppin negotiated the terms, according to parks and recreation manager Rob Baumgarn.

The 11-page rental agreement provides for Robbins Island to be closed to the general public for the festival, including parking lots, shelters, buildings and boat ramps.

Studio 38 will pay a $12,000 fee to the city to cover the city’s fixed costs for the use of Willmar Public Works, Police Department and Fire Department personnel. If the costs associated with these entities are less than $12,000, Studio 38 will be reimbursed the difference. If the costs are more than $12,000, they will be deducted from the refundable security deposit of $10,000 required by the lease.

Any necessary repairs to Robbins Island following the festival will also be taken from the deposit.

The city will also receive $1 per ticket on the first 5,000 tickets sold as rental fees for Robbins Island, and Studio 38 will pay $500 for the rental of all shelters in the park for the day.

Studio 38 will be responsible for paying for all electricity used for the event and will have until noon the following day to clean up the park by removing fences, portable toilets and other equipment used for the event.

Council members express concern over Robbins Island being closed for festival

Council members were concerned about the precedent set by allowing Robbins Island to be closed for an entire day for a private event.

“Previous. I just want to throw this situation out,” Councilor Ask said, noting that he recently rented a Robbins Island shelter for a birthday party for his daughters, who invited 15 guests.

“Now I understand that next summer I can close the whole island for a two-day birthday party for my daughters, pay $500 for the shelters to close, and charge each of the 15 guests $1 per ticket, giving the city $515. I don’t need the police department or Parks and Rec to do anything. Would that be the precedent we’re setting? »

He didn’t think the fee charged for the day was enough to shut down a busy city park, which would inconvenience the ratepayers who pay it.

Baumgarn said the park will only be closed to the public on Saturday, September 10, and the rental agreement will run until noon on Sunday, September 11 to allow for post-event cleanup.

When Councilor O’Brien asked if there were any other events that had closed the entire park, Baumgarn noted that Rockin’ Robbins was closing “pretty much” the entire park due to full seating. parking lots available, but the free concert does not block out any part of the park.

Walks and runs that take place close the park for the duration of the walk and run, and there is a $300 permit fee for these events.

Baumgarn said the $1 fee per ticket is usually standard for events such as this festival.

Ask proposed an amendment to charge a flat fee of $10,000 for the day, which would include the $500 for closing shelters in the park. His amendment also included charging a fee for the cost of city staff for the event, the $1 per ticket fee for the first 5,000 tickets sold, and the $10,000 security deposit.

Plowman said these types of events are what the council wants to bring to the city, and it’s a great opportunity to create policy and give the city a launching point to then tweak the policy, if necessary, after the event.

He said he thinks this is a good thing for entrepreneurs who want to run private for-profit events that are successful in many communities and reminded the board that the event can be for-profit, but it could create a huge loss for the organizers. if it is a “flop”.

“So there comes the risk,” Plowman said, noting that there’s a fine line between what’s a reasonable rate to charge and what’s unreasonable. “We want private entities, we want private entrepreneurship, we want business, we want events where people are willing to put their money on the line and they could do a good job. There’s this inherent risk that they might not do as well.

Nelsen also spoke out against the amendment, noting that city staff negotiated the rental agreement and that it’s a good starting point for developing future policy for such events.

Asmus noted that this wouldn’t be the first time the city has closed public amenities for events, referencing the Sonshine Music Festival that has been held for many years at the Civic Center. The organizers were not charged $10,000 for this event, but had to pay the cost of renting the civic center and paying the cost of city staff for the event.

The lease amendment failed in a 5-3 vote, with Ask, Fagerlie and O’Brien voting in favor and Davis, Plowman, Nelsen, Asmus and Butterfield voting against.

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