‘Party’ cancelled amidst concerns
By Jane Beathard
Call the county sheriff and prosecutor “party poopers.”
But with public safety a concern, they successfully shut down plans for a rap-and-rock music festival at the shuttered Madison Rural Elementary School on Old Xenia Road.
On Tuesday, Madison County Prosecutor Steve Pronai asked Judge Robert D. Nichols to block London residents Roger and Lauren Toops and Columbus rapper Nate Frase from conducting In School Suspension (I.S.S.) Fest at the building on Aug. 11-12. A hearing in common pleas court is set for 10 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 3.
On Wednesday, Facebook noted the event was cancelled.
Pronai filed the request on behalf of county zoning director David Hughes, health commissioner Mary Ann Webb and central townships fire chief Brian Bennington. Court paperwork alleges the Toopses and Frase failed to obtain proper permits and licenses for the all-day, all-night event, putting the safety of attendees and participants at risk.
Facebook promotion for I.S.S. Fest portrayed a two-day Woodstock-type festival with live bands, movies, indoor and outdoor camping, tattooing and piercing artists, merchandise booths, games, raffles, food and drinks. Outdoor water activities, including “kiddy” pools, sprinklers and slides were also promised, along with a room with a furry wall for attendees to “pet.”
“The plan is to offer everyone who attends a giant project x style party with loads of live music and entertainment, food, beer, merch and cool services,” a Facebook said. “After it’s all over, a giant slumber party with all their friends, new and old.”
Tickets were $15 pre-sale and $20 at the door. Parking was another $5.
Facebook also promised that “utmost care is being taken by everyone involved to ensure all aspects of the event be handled with professionalism in regards to legality and, of course, safety…”
However, Pronai and Madison County Sheriff Jim Sabin disagreed with that statement.
Pronai said organizers never obtained a conditional use zoning permit for the event nor health department licenses for food services, tattooing and camping. The property is zoned as an agricultural district.
Inspectors were never allowed inside the 1930s-era building to check for necessary fire alarms, sprinklers, extinguishers and other safety features.
“It was sold to a private party and closed four years ago,” Bennington said. “We don’t inspect closed buildings.”
However, in this case, the proposed use raised many fire-safety questions.
“Anything like this that goes on when people would attend such a venue, that building needs to be inspected,” he said.
“We need to make sure that there are operating fire suppression systems, alarm systems, properly marked exit signs and emergency lighting,” Bennington pointed out among other concerns.
Most disturbing to Sabin is Facebook’s indication that 5,240 people were invited to the concert, with 436 saying they planned to attend. Another 182 “maybes” were listed, as of Tuesday. His concerns centered on highway access to the former school at 375 Old Xenia Road and potential noise complaints from neighbors.
Promoters indicated on July 26 they intended to cancel the event. However, promotion and ticket sales apparently continued, Sabin said.
That forced legal action by Pronai to quell the planned festivities.