What kind of town opposes tourism?

Published 9:24 am Monday, August 5, 2013

After several weeks of reflection and conversation, I am compelled to write once again concerning the perceived problems arising from music festivals held at Harmony Park. First of all, I know from talking to various people here in my hometown of Grinnell, Iowa, that we would give our eye teeth to have a campground like this available to us for gatherings of all kinds — including music festivals.

The economic impact of 1,200 to 3,000 people descending on our community of 9,200 several times a year would be huge. Here we hold street dances attended by anywhere from 500 to 2,500 people once a month during the summer and vie for — on a yearly basis — major events such as Ragbrai, (a 10,000- to 20,000-plus bike ride across the state held each year) in an attempt to bolster commerce. Some of the people at those dances can get out of hand, and the local police are always up to the task of keeping things safe and fun for all. It is the same with Ragbrai when it comes through, as it did several years ago. Rather than attempt to shut these gatherings down because of problems that arise, local government, law enforcement and promoters link together to ensure things improve each time.

Secondly, a good friend who happens to be a local police officer was able to provide some perspective. He tells me that arrests are made on a fairly regular basis at the local Walmart for various crimes just as is reported on occasion in Albert Lea. Our local county fair also draws a few folks intent on and arrested for breaking various laws, similar to what has been reported in this paper during past fairs in Freeborn County. I read your paper online on a weekly basis and find stories about assaults, alcohol and drug-related crimes, property damage and theft — just like I do in my own local paper.

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As my friend on the police force said, no one would suggest that Walmart be shuttered because of various arrests. No one clambers to shut down the county fair because arrests are made there, and no one tries to shut down our street dances because some folks get out of hand. Instead, local authorities, law enforcement, politicians and promoters work together to ensure each production is better than the last. I would strongly urge all those involved and all those interested to take this approach rather than to make the draconian decision to shut down a venue because of the behavior of a few people.


Jeffrey Phelps

Grinnell, Iowa