By Tia Lynn Ivey
The City of Madison has consistently rejected requests to rent out smaller city parks for large events due to limited parking, excessive littering, the absence of on-site restrooms, and potential noise ordinance violations. However, Jerome Anderson, founder of Your Community at Work, convinced Madison Mayor and City Council to grant him special permission to hold a community cook-off, anticipated to draw over 200 people, at Gilbert Park on East Washington Street in Madison on Saturday, June 11, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Anderson appeared before the council last week, promising to take full responsibility for parking, providing porta-potties, medical aid, and clean-up for the event, aimed toward serving local African-American families and youth.
Mayor Fred Perriman was eager to give Anderson’s organization a chance to prove itself by making a special allowance for this one event as a “trial run.”
“We don’t want to open a can of worms, but when it comes to kids and trying to make a difference in their lives, maybe we can use this as a trial-run period, to see if it can work,” said Perriman.
City Manager David Nunn expressed reservations over permitting Anderson’s event, on account of the precedent it could set for future organizations looking to host events at smaller city parks and the past record of such events creating problems for the city.
“We have dozens requests for these kinds of things, and we turn them all away,” said Nunn. “The place is just not equipped to hold an event like this…Town Park is, and we direct people there for that reason, to get these events off the streets. The last thing we want to do is put a burden on a neighborhood in a park that is just not designed to handle such an event…Gilbert Park in the future could be used for these kind of events, but right now, I have my concerns.”
But Anderson argued his organization could not afford Town Park’s rental prices and specifically wanted to give the people who live near Gilbert Park something fun to do right in their own neighborhood.
“For one thing, my organization cannot afford Town Park, and the location at Gilbert Park is perfect because it’s a neighborhood event. Most of the people who will come don’t even have cars, they are going to walk,” said Anderson. “It’s the perfect place and I wouldn’t want to have it anywhere else. If we get denied, we will just cancel the event.”
The city was hesitant to agree to such a large event at a neighborhood park, but Anderson persuaded the council by promising to go above and beyond in ensuring the event would not disrupt the local neighborhood or block city streets.
“I will put pieces in place to make sure there is not one car parked out of place,” said Anderson.
The Your Community At Work event, will have free admission, but a $20 fee to participate in the chicken and ribs cook-off. The event will also feature a DJ, volleyball games, water balloons, and other activities for children in addition to the jungle gym at Gilbert Park.
“In the black community, there is nothing for us to do, we are tired of having nothing to do. My organization wants to provide something uplifting for us,” said Anderson to the council. “I think we are going to be able to pull this off and it’s going to go great.”