City cancels Coventry Village Family Arts Day
The City of Cleveland Heights canceled the Coventry Family Arts Day that had been scheduled for last Sunday, July 21. The city made the decision on Thursday, July 18, three days before the event, citing social media threats to disrupt the fair.
In a press release, the city stated, “After police monitoring of social media regarding messages about the event and also, being aware of the incidents last weekend at the St. Gregory the Great Festival, the city has determined that this is the appropriate and responsible thing to be done.”
Mayor Edward Kelley said that he made the decision together with the police chief and Susanna Niermann O’Neil, acting city manager and safety director.
Kelley said he has heard from several residents and business owners who are supportive of the city’s decision. “I know we made the right call," said Kelley, "and if I had to do it again I’d make the same call 100 times out of 100. Sure, there are some people who will second guess it, but I sleep well at night. It would only take one bad incident at an event like this to potentially bring the whole district down. I’m never going to compromise the safety of our community.”
“Other communities have canceled events. Shaker Heights canceled its fireworks. Until somebody comes up with a new strategy to deal with this, the police are going to continue to monitor social media,” he said.
Steve Presser, marketing coordinator for the Coventry Village Special Improvement District (CVSID) and organizer of the event, said that he understood the city’s decision. “It’s a sad, sad, unfortunate situation. We are sorry on so many different levels," said Presser. "The people who are posting these things on social media do not understand the bigger picture of what they are doing. It’s time they grow up.”
The fair would have been the first on Coventry since a flash mob broke out at the 2011 event. After that incident, the City of Cleveland Heights implemented a 6 p.m. curfew in Coventry and other business districts, and heightened its police presence in the area.
CVSID had hoped to bring the fair back in 2012, but, after discussions with the city and the community, decided it was not ready to do so and postponed the event until this year.
CVSID went out of its way to ensure that the 2013 event would have a family focus. It changed the event name to Family Arts Day and planned it for a Sunday afternoon. Unlike past festivals, Coventry streets were to remain open to motor vehicles.
“We had 50 performers and 50 vendors booked,” said Presser, spokesman for CVSID. “The music was folk, roots and classical—most of it acoustical, only one area was going to be amplified. Everything was geared towards family.”
Presser said that the problem of people making veiled threats and inciting panic via social media is a national issue. “It’s a sad statement of society,” he said. “It has to change.” He said he believed Coventry was targeted because people like to come to Coventry. “It’s easy access,” said Presser. “People come to areas they are familiar with.”
Presser said that the many other events held at Coventry this summer have been peaceful and uneventful. The CVSID will continue to host a variety of free summer events through early August, including Yoga at Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Park on Sundays from 5 to 7 p.m.; Drum Circle led by professional percussionists at Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Park on Sundays from 7 to 9 p.m.; Music on Coventry Road at Lot #15 (between Marc’s and Heights Cleaners) on Tuesdays from 7 to 9 p.m.; and Drive-in Movie Series at Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Park on Thursdays from 9 to 11 p.m.
This Thursday, July 25, Coventry will host its fifth annual cartoon night and pie fight at the P.E.A.C.E. Park. The event begins at 9 p.m. with screenings of classic cartoons and the Three Stooges, followed by the pie fight (participants must bring their own pies).
For more information and a full schedule of events, visit www.coventryvillage.org.
Deanna Bremer Fisher
Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.