MARENGO – Marengo Settlers’ Days event coordinators plan to move the iconic, four-day Marengo event out of the downtown strip because they say it will improve safety and other longstanding issues. But not everyone is convinced it’s a good idea to break from tradition.
The four-day event was founded in 1971 and includes parades, a carnival, a craft show, food, live music and other events. One of its highlights is the “Saturday Night on Main Street” party, which takes place along Route 23.
City officials and Marengo residents expressed concern Monday about a proposal to move Settlers’ Days from the downtown strip to near the high school campus.
City aldermen cited concerns about breaking tradition, parking and traffic, timing and lack of organization surrounding the event, which takes place in October.
“Settlers’ Days has always been about being downtown,” 4th Ward Alderman Dennis Hammortree said. “It seems like this is kind of put together and hurried through.”
Third Ward Alderman Todd Hall said he was concerned about the effect the move would have on the businesses downtown that benefit from the four-day fest.
“I would almost like to see a sign-off from them, saying, ‘Hey yeah, we’re OK with this,’ ” Hall said. “Just so that they know what is going on, that they are OK with it. … I have no problem where it’s at, but I just want to make sure we are taking care of the businesses.”
What would become of the popular “Saturday Night on Main Street” event also caused concern. Settlers’ Days planners want to hold the event – now dubbed “Saturday Night Family Festival” – behind the Glo-Bowl off Route 20 near the high school.
“I know people who come back to Settlers’ Days to go to ‘Saturday on Main,’ ” 1st Ward Alderwoman Nicole DeBoer said.
An informal social media poll was taken on a Marengo community forum regarding the event. Of the more than 300 responses, 289 people voted to keep “Saturday Night on Main Street” downtown.
The City Council will discuss the item again at its July 10 meeting. Officials requested that Settlers’ Days event planners organize a more formal proposal addressing the concerns voiced at the meeting. A search for more volunteers to help with the event also is open.
Mayor John Koziol said he hoped the group would carefully weigh the decision, citing the uniqueness of the festival and its ties to the city’s identity.
“I can see the argument going both ways,” he said. “Not like you are proposing something out of the ordinary, but you are taking an identity about what is Marengo, what the downtown area is.”