Originally created 08/07/03

Rules for festival stall before panel

Downtown merchants say they want everyone at the monthly First Friday festival to play by the rules.

Augusta Commission members want to change those rules.

Main Street Augusta, the merchants association for the central business district, already has drafted a set of guidelines for the street festival, regulating everything from street vendors' merchandise to its official hours.

"It takes (away) some of the chaos we've had in the past," the group's executive director, Chris Naylor, said Tuesday.

Those rules have been in place all summer, and the commission's approval is nothing more than a technicality, but efforts to get the commission to accept them have been unsuccessful. The regulations failed to pass for the second time Tuesday.

"All we're asking is that you give it your stamp of approval," downtown business owner and Main Street panelist Carless Gay said shortly before the vote.

Since May, elected officials have questioned a number of the guidelines drafted by the merchants group.

Commissioner Steve Shepard is among those who have been critical of the rules - first taking issue with a number of technical errors and, on second review Tuesday, questioning their effects on the rights of storefront owners.

Other commissioners wanted bigger changes. Marion Williams said the event's 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. time frame seemed unreasonable, even though Main Street officials explained that the times had nothing to do with patron activities and were for insurance purposes.

"First Friday is a day," Mr. Williams said. "We can't put people in a box."

Commissioner Andy Cheek admonished his colleagues, urging them to approve the guidelines and be supportive of downtown.

"It's not written by the hand of God. It's written by the men and women who work downtown," he said.

Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or heidi.williams@augustachronicle.com.


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