I think Oshkosh's tenure as "Wisconsin's Event City" is beginning to wear on people. I don't mean just the city's public safety and public works staff that are stretched thin all summer long working and patrolling the nearly constant stream of public gatherings, concerts and potential traffic jams which mark our summers now--but rather the general public as well. Hence the little bit of ugliness that we saw with the Oshkosh Advisory Parks Board and organizers of Sawdust Days last night.
As we've been reporting the last couple of days, some Parks Board members are fed up with incidents taking place in and around Menominee Park during the 4th of July weekend. The most serious this year was a melee involving dozens of teenagers that required almost twenty police officers to break up. But Parks Board member Bill Gogolewski came out firing with even more serious allegations last night, claiming Sawdust Days "brings gangs and drugs to the park every year" and that "someone is going to get shot by police someday". Not exactly the kind of reviews that Sawdust Days is going to put on next year's flyer to attract attendees.
I would have to say that there was a lot of "code talking" going on around the topic yesterday. In her interview with us on WOSH Monday morning, Sawdust Days Chairperson Ellen Schmidt said it was a "group from Menasha that comes every year just to cause trouble" that started the fight--and that she would be "profiling, if she described the group". Mr Gogolewski's comments also draw inferences--especially when such allegations are tied to "certain parts of the park during Sawdust Days". I should add that his comments were made in the context of "I talked to police officers who worked the event and they said....."--so we will definitely be checking with Police Chief Dean Smith as to whether or not the Department believes gangs and drug dealers are taking over Sawdust Days.
This little tiff comes a couple of weeks after Common Council Member Lori Palmeiri asked why the police services fee was so high for the Hmong Festival at Winnebago Community Park on Labor Day weekend--and Chief Smith informed her that it's because the Department keeps a tactical team on site that weekend--just in case. That is the same festival that was denied a special event permit one year when dueling factions within that community came before the Common Council claiming the other was making threats against them.
Bill Gogolewski wondered why attendees at Sawdust Days "can't be more like those at Lifest"--the Christian music festival held at the Sunnyview Expo Grounds--for which admission is charged and there is a fence around the grounds. He must have forgotten about the sexual assault case that stemmed from the camping area out there one year, or the girl that was killed on one of the thrill rides. Of course, Lifest doesn't have an on-site hoosegow like the Winnebago County Sheriff's Department has out at Country USA and Rock USA to deal with all of the drunk and disorderlies. And the Fire Department doesn't have to sit on edge with heavy equipment ready to roll to Sawdust Days like it does when there are five-thousand takeoffs and landings at Wittman Airport during EAA.
Just another weekend in "Wisconsin's (Dangerous) Event City"!