What was expected to have been an easy hearing proved to be fraught with issues on July 24 as the Rochester Board of Selectmen discussed this year’s Rochester Country Fair. The board listened to neighbors of the Pine Street Fairgrounds as they expressed their concerns about the use of the town fairgrounds.
After Fair Co-chairperson Julie Koczera presented to the board the list of staff, committee, and board members to be approved, she enumerated some of the events to be held at this year’s fair. While the fair has been cut from four days to three, some events have been revived due to their popularity.
“The Woodsman Show will be back Friday evening … [and we are] bringing the parade back Sunday morning,” Koczera noted. She also noted that Police Chief Paul Magee approves of the parade route and that it is sponsored by Diversified Roofing.
The committee worked diligently to secure agricultural vendors and events, especially for children, such as corn shucking and milking contests. The board approved all of the requests of Koczera, including stretching a banner across Route 105, pending state approval.
Concerned neighbor Paul Costa then spoke to the board, vociferously expressing what appeared to be a concern of many neighbors in the area: what had been billed as a three-day event five years ago when the Fair was granted permission to use the fairgrounds had become year round use by the Fair and other entities.
Costa raised the concern that the tractor pull event, which occurs all three days of the Fair and may continue into the evening hours, can be quite disruptive to the residents.
Fair board member Kelly Morgado, who lives in the neighborhood, noted that while it is loud, it is integral to a country fair.
Koczera said, “Without the tractor pull, there would be no Fair; it is a main draw.” Selectmen Chairman Bradford Morse said he thought “It is reasonable to consider bringing the number of tractor pulls to fewer days.”
Costa also observed that while leaving the Fair, attendees drive too fast, especially on Quaker Lane, and he requested a police detail be assigned to the area. The Fair representatives agreed that they would discuss this with Chief Magee.
Several neighbors noted that there appeared to be overnight camping occurring at the site during the Fair, to which Chairman Morse said there was no permission for camping. Fair Co-chairman David Souza said that he camped there to provide security at the site during the Fair, and event participants who brought their animals must stay at the site under state law. If they couldn’t camp there, the Fair couldn’t have the animal events.
Selectman Greenwood Hartley III pointed out that it was too late to change the events at the Fair this year, but “…can we get a draft schedule next year two to three months ahead of time so neighbors can know what events are proposed and we can discuss at a public meeting.” Attendants seemed to agree with this idea.
Later in the meeting, Hartley also suggested that there be a debriefing a month after the Fair to discuss how things went and what could be improved.
Many of the neighbors in attendance on Monday evening were supportive of the Fair, but had specific concerns about other uses of the Fairgrounds throughout the year.
The Selectmen had previously granted permission to a nonprofit dog training organization, the SouthCoast Working Dog Club, to use the fairgrounds. The group may use the property four days a week, and it hosts events, competitions and fundraisers there. Hartley suggested that the board take up the issue of the dog club at a separate meeting, and that it not be conflated with the discussion about the Fair.
Hartley said, “Let’s get it on the agenda in two weeks – maybe make some accommodations, revisit the four days a week.”
A neighbor asked, “When did our neighborhood become non-residential?”
In an unfortunate position on the agenda, Lorraine Thompson came before the selectmen with a request to use the Fairgrounds for a fundraiser for the Rochester Lions Club in October. While she could describe that the event was to be a Touch-A-Truck event, with a Kids Muster, the selectmen asked that she provide them with a request in writing. An attendant in the meeting observed, “These functions make a town into a community.”
The meeting began with an important recognition by Police Chief Magee of Officer Nathan Valente. Valente was presented with a Letter of Commendation by Magee for acting with “Courage, bravery and without regard for his own safety.…”
On June 22, Valente, with an unnamed motorist, kept a Dartmouth man from possibly drowning after driving his truck off Mary’s Pond Road into a body of water. Magee said he was “…very impressed with Valente’s actions and the rest of the Rochester police force and first responders.” He said Rochester is very lucky to have individuals like Valente on the force.
Both Morse and Selectman Naida L. Parker echoed Magee’s sentiments. Magee also said he has spoken numerous times with the unnamed motorist who also assisted in the rescue, and will be providing them a Letter of Commendation as well.
The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Selectmen is scheduled for August 7 at 6:30 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.
Rochester Board of Selectmen
By Sarah French Storer