Niles City Council considers first official cannabis festival

NILES – Niles City Council members discussed what some called “the next Woodstock” during a committee of the whole meeting Monday evening.

City Administrator Ric Huff introduced the application from the Michigan Cannabis Festival to council members, expressing concern about the “untested” nature of the event.

The Niles Music Cannabis Festival, originally applied to be hosted from July 14 through July 18 according to its application with the city of Niles, is now considering pushing its tentative date back to September, according to event organizers. By pushing the date back, the organizers hope there will be fewer COVID-19 restrictions on events and event attendance. Currently, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services mandates that outdoor events not exceed 1,000 people.

“We don’t have a track record of how many people will try to attend this,” Huff said. “I know [organizers] mentioned that they have some big-ticket bands that are interested [in playing this event]. That in itself could attract an awful lot of people.”

Controlling the access to the event would be difficult, according to Huff. Some potential locations have been identified for the event to aid in the security.

Riverfront Park South, near the Ruff and Tumble Dog Park and French Paper dam, was identified as a potential space to be utilized.

“You can control access on Bond Street from the north and south there. There’s a river controlling access from the west and a swamp controlling access from the east,” Huff said. “It would be fairly easy to keep track of who is there and difficult for someone to crash the party, so to speak.”

Huff said planning should be conservative for the first event of its kind in the area, due to so many unknowns for the event type and the nature of COVID-19 trends and mandates in Michigan.

According to the event application, 24 vendors have been identified including eight food vendors, eight merchandise vendors and eight marijuana dispensaries.

“We have big plans to bring some real nice [music] acts. You’ve mentioned Woodstock. This would be the next Woodstock for Niles,” said Michigan Cannabis Festival Chief Executive Officer Germaine Redding. “But it all comes with safety. That’s my main focus for doing any event. If people buy a ticket, they expect to come safe and leave safe.”

Michigan Cannabis Festival’s Chief Operating Officer Mel Spencley said Redding has more than 20 years of working as a production manager and running music festivals.

City council member John DiCostanzo was in support of the event and what it could mean for Niles.

“I think this is an outstanding opportunity to be the first one in the state. I think it would attract a lot of attention to the city,” DiCostanzo said.

He said organizers seemed to have a “pretty good” safety plan, as included in the application was their plan for security at an East Lansing event.

“I kind of view this as a mini-Woodstock event,” DiCostanzo said. “I think if it’s really good music, and people partying in the park, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Council member Jessica Nelson expressed some concern upon realizing the Niles event would potentially be among the first of its kind in the state of Michigan. Nelson expressed concerns about Niles’ ability to handle a large influx of out-of-town people staying for a weekend event of potentially very large size.

“When anyone comes to a city for an event, they don’t just come for the event – they come and enjoy the city,” Nelson said. “So, what does that look like, and how do we handle that? Not only from a security or public safety point of view, but as an accommodation point of view.”

No actions were taken on the discussion as of Monday evening.

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