Music festival dead with council's refusal to lift 10 p.m. limit

  • Published in Local News

LACONIA — The City Council last night pulled the plug on a proposal to hold an electronic music festival in a field at The Weirs in August by refusing to permit amplified music past the hour of 10 p.m. stipulated by city ordinance.

In response to the request of Christina Contrado, who planned to stage the event, no motion was made to either grant or deny the request and no formal vote was taken.

When Contardo approached the Licensing Board last week with a request to use ...

LACONIA — The City Council last night pulled the plug on a proposal to hold an electronic music festival in a field at The Weirs in August by refusing to permit amplified music past the hour of 10 p.m. stipulated by city ordinance.

In response to the request of Christina Contrado, who planned to stage the event, no motion was made to either grant or deny the request and no formal vote was taken.

When Contardo approached the Licensing Board last week with a request to use loudspeakers until 2 a.m., the board expressed a preference for midnight but tabled her application pending the decision of the council. She told the council  that similar festivals are usually "overnight experiences", but conceded  "I'm looking for a compromise" while remarking "midnight is a little too early, but two may be extreme."

Contardo planned to hold the festival on about 6.5-acres of open ground southwest of Route 3 North, opposite Funspot, owned by Michael Foote. The venue is reached by an unpaved road off Route 3. The main stage would be set in the middle of the 325-foot by 850-foot rectangle serving as the festival grounds with a smaller covered stage just north of it.

Foote, who spoke in support of the request, described the ground as a "natural amphitheater," which he has mown for more than 40 years. The property is zoned and taxed as commercial land.

"We lift our skirts and pull our bloomers down once a year for Bike Week," Foote remarked, suggesting that City Hall goes out of its way to accommodate the annual rally. The music festival, he added, would offer an attraction between the Timberman Triathalon and Soulfest and draw a large number of visitors who would patronize local hotels, motels, cottages and restaurants.

Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) asked Contardo if there were some way to measure the sound in order to gauge its impact on surrounding residences and businesses. She replied that she was unable to invest in such testing without an assurance that the event would be permitted. 

Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) said that without answers to such questions the council could not reach a decision.

"We sell sleep," Fred Clausen, who owns and operates Proctor Cottages at The Weirs, told the council. He said that his cottages were a half-mile downhill of the proposed venue and his guests would be disturbed by the sound. Two of Foote's neighbors also spoke against the request.

Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) said that "I've had phone calls" and that many residents of The Weirs were not available to comment because they went south for the winter. He was among several councilors to recall that the council denied a request by the owners of the Weirs Beach Lobster Pound to offer amplified music past 10 p.m.

Last week, The New York Times carried a front page story about electronic music festivals that began by reporting that 60,000 tickets to the Electric Daisy Festival at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey in May sold out in three hours at $100 apiece. According to the report, electronic dance music, once confined to clubs and "raves" in warehouses, is the new favorite genre of the concert industry with a growing number of festivals and profit margins appealing to Wall Street.