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Rochester Hills Lions Club to add carnival rides, games to the Oktoberfest

Rochester lifts ban on ‘carnivals and tent shows, shooting galleries, endurance contests, freak shows’

August 20, 2013

» click to enlarge «
Paulina Tether, of Rochester Hills, rides the carousel at a past carnival.

ROCHESTER — After receiving a request from the Rochester Hills Lions Club to add carnival rides and games to the Oktoberfest at the Rochester Mills Beer Co. this September, Rochester Police Chief Steve Schettenhelm discovered a particularly odd, and rather outdated, city ordinance.

City Manager Jaymes Vettraino said the ordinance — which was adopted prior to 1958 — prohibits carnivals, and a number of other special events, from happening in the city, citing them as public nuisances.

“We have on our books a specific ordinance that does not allow for carnivals. It also does not allow for shooting galleries, endurance contests or freak shows. There are many comments to be made there. I will refrain from any of them,” he explained with a chuckle.

When considering special events in the city, Vettraino said administrators now use a special event application process.

“We have a relatively robust special event process that’s worked well over the last two years,” he explained.

Under the process, those seeking to organize and hold a special event in the city — either on public property, impacting public property or the public in general, or on private property but attracting the public — are required to complete and submit a special event application to the police chief. After receiving the application, the chief considers the feasibility of the event, calculates an estimated cost of the police resources needed for the event and then circulates the application to the other city departments for their review. The application is then sent to the City Council for final consideration.

On Aug. 12, the City Council unanimously voted to remove the city’s prohibition on “carnivals and tent shows, shooting galleries, endurance contests, and freak shows,” which now means such events will be considered under the city’s regular special event application process.

“We do have a good process for special events, and I believe that we can trust the discretion of administration to discern appropriately and make that recommendation to us,” Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Cuthbertson said.

Vettraino said the move is a win-win.

“If an individual, or an organization, would like to have a carnival or an endurance contest, or anything else, they can go through that process, and we can remove an ordinance that administration feels is not useful at this time,” he added.

The same night, the City Council also unanimously approved the Rochester Hills Lions Club’s special event application to hold a carnival fundraising event in conjunction with the Rochester Mills Beer Co.’s Oktoberfest Sept. 26-29.

For more than 35 years, the Rochester Hills Lions Club has sponsored a spring carnival — held in the parking lot near Kmart, at Rochester and Avon roads, and run by Mid-American Shows — to raise funds for Leader Dogs for the Blind.

“In the 36 years now that we’ve done it, we’ve probably raised close to three quarters of a million dollars,” said Keith Kennedy, the Rochester Hills Lions Club’s perennial carnival chairman. “There are really only about 13 of us that are directly involved in the club, but we have managed to be in the top-10 donating clubs to Leader Dogs in the world. Of the 10, we also have the Rochester Club and the Shelby Township Lions, so, as small as we may be, that carnival puts us on the financial map. We’ve made as little as $3,000 and we’ve made in excess of $40,000. It depends a lot on the weather.”

Kennedy said Mid-American Shows would run the Oktoberfest carnival, which will benefit the Leader Dogs for the Blind program and other Lions Club charities.

“We have a signed contract with the carnival company. It’s the same company that we’ve dealt with for probably 34 of our 36 years in Rochester Hills,” he said.

Schettenhelm said the Oakland County Sherriff’s Office — Rochester Hills Substation has reported “very few” problems caused by the annual spring carnival over the years.

About the author

Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond covers the city of Rochester, Rochester Community Schools and Avondale Schools for the Post. Almond has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2005 and attended Michigan State University.

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