The annual Granite Falls Lion’s sponsored street dance, a nightly auxillary event of the Granite Falls Western Fest community celebration held in Granite Falls in late June, will possibly have a new location this year.
The event, which features a GF Lions sponsored beer garden, food and live musical entertainment Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights during Western Fest, may possibly be moved from it’s old location at Sorlien Park (adjacent to Prentice Street and the American Legion Post 69) to the Richter Field baseball park on Recreation Dr. in Granite Falls.
Final approval for moving the dance lies with the Granite Falls City Council, who must approve the use of Richter Field as a site for the Western Fest street dance.
Previously, the GF Lions had partnered with Granite Falls Legion Post 69 to host the event at the Sorlien Park site, but in preparation for this year’s Western Fest and the accompanying street dance, the two community organizations failed to come to terms.
“It was really a mutual understanding, from what I’ve heard,” said GF Lion’s member Craig Opdahl. “To my understanding, the Legion wanted out... They have an aging membership and this event is a big undertaking. As for the Lions, they want to protect their investment and help Western Fest grow.”
All representatives contacted for this story, whether city or organizationally affiliated, agreed that Sorlien Park and the open city lots adjacent to both it and Post 69, remain the ‘best’ site for the event. Yet in that shared space, complications and competition arises from balancing the needs of the non-profit event sponsor (in this case the GF Lions) and a partnering non-profit business (the GF Legion).
“The Western Fest committee didn’t want to move the dance,” said Western Fest committee member John Richter. “But we had to look at other options... We (Western Fest) need a location for our public drawing (the Western Fest raffle), that’s our main concern. And we wanted to keep (the dance) going.”
During committee meetings, John Richter proposed the Richter Field ballpark as a possible site, thus resulting in the GF Lion’s partnering with the Granite Falls Baseball Association to host the event.
In the coming weeks, the GF Lions will file a letter, with support from both the GF Baseball Association and the Western Fest committe, with the Granite Falls City Council requesting council approval to use Richter Field as a site for the street dance. Granite Falls City Administrator Bill Lavin stated that any further steps in the process of switching the sites will be decided by council discussion.
“It’s a big move, it’s a big change, you certainly don’t want to step on any toes,” said GF Baseball Association member Mike Richter. His association has agreed to serve food and serve as hosts for the event. “We’re going to work along with Western Fest and the GF Lions and basically try and keep the Western Fest tradition going.”
Page 2 of 2 - Mike Richter was confident that Richter Field could handle the swell of people expected.
“We’ve had two (Minnesota Amateur Baseball) State Tournaments here. And we’ve seen a lot of fans. I think we have ample room down there for this.”
Opdahl, who also serves as Granite Falls Assistant Fire Chief, stated that he felt the ballpark would be an easier environment to control—in respect to managing the flow of people and serving alcohol.
“It’s a city-wide celebration and I think people will be happy with what we can offer (at the ballpark),” said John Richter. “I think (at the ballpark) we can offer more things for kids and families to do. We’re looking for a clean, family-friendly environment. And I think the ballpark is a good location, maybe not every one feels that way, but it really is our best alternative.”
A Friday night street dance has been held at Sorlien Park every year since Western Fest began in 1980. Up tp 1986, the street dance was moved to the Memorial Park shelter house on Saturday nights. But since 1987, for the past 24 years, the Western Fest street dance has been held exclusively at Sorlien Park.