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Thursday, May 17, 2012 09:46 am

Curfew canceled. SOHO saved. For now.

A late night crowd enjoying SOHO Music Fest in 2011.

Amid the many calamities occurring everywhere all the time, the Springfield music scene recently had our very own crisis to overcome. Mayor Michael Houston announced last Thursday morning on the Jim Leach Show (WMAY 970 AM) during a discussion about downtown and making it “a center of activity,” that certain street music festivals would be shut down by 9:30 p.m.

Leach, who is always up on what’s going on, asked the mayor about the SOHO Music Festival specifically, since it’s happening in a few weeks, promotes area bands, isn’t sponsored by a bar and benefits a local charity. Houston said, “One of the things that happens as a result of having amplified music going at night, it does have a tendency to disturb people who are living in the downtown.” In talking about these events, “put on by the various bars in the downtown area,” he says there was a meeting with bar owners and they came to an agreement “to cut that off at 9:30.”  

When Leach says most downtown residents come to expect late-night weekends, Houston explains that “not everybody who is in the downtown area is young and active in taking part in that kind of lifestyle” and some are looking to “get a good night’s sleep with peace and quiet” and getting rid of these late-night street events helps, “in terms of getting to sleep at a fairly decent hour on a Friday or Saturday night.” He concluded by saying, “We close up the outside music in terms of 9:30” but “people can still be on the streets and that type of thing, but really at some point you want those people to start moving inside.”

Wow. Really? The late Mayor Tim Davlin attended SOHO to kick off the festivities as an announcer and I think the other candidate we had for mayor might have a different view. What’s really going on here? Take a look for yourself at the SOHO Music Festival Facebook page and see the comments. Some see a conspiracy in allowing the bigger DSI-sponsored events to stay up late, others advised moving the festival to Chatham and most offered strong support for SOHO and downtown festivals with choice words for the misinformed City Hall. The grassroots rebellion against the mayor’s decision and remarks resulted in his office rescinding the order, at least for this year, with a promise to look into the matter and extending the curfew to 10:30 for next year. Several SOHO supporters, including founder and organizer Eric Welch and Miranda Jenkins, Nursery Coordinator for Mini O’Beirne Crisis Nursery, the recipient of the generous proceeds of SOHO, were scheduled to speak Tuesday, May 15, at the city council meeting in favor of allowing the festival to continue on usual.

“I just want to thank the mayor and see him face to face and explain to him what SOHO is,” says Welch. “We’re not a board or an organization, just citizens donating time and effort to promote what we have here. SOHO is a ‘we.’ It’s an ‘us.’ During all this time I never once was contacted by the mayor’s office.”

Hundreds of people though, did contact the office through Facebook, emails, phone calls, and faxes. With other media exposure through WICS and the SJ-R, somehow Alderman Cory Jobe got to the mayor and suddenly the crisis was over.

Congratulations to SOHO for beating the unreasonable demands that came without consultation and here’s to keeping the other events going strong. Maybe we could give earplugs to those residents needing “peace and quiet,” while letting those who purchase things at downtown venues, support an active nightlife and participate in the arts at night do so in a reasonable and responsible manner without interruption or interference.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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