Jul 13, 2017 4:46 PM

Hundreds sign letter to NH AG addressing backlash over Prescott Park Arts Festival


PORTSMOUTH — Over 300 New Hampshire residents have signed a letter written Wednesday addressed to the Assistant Director of the Attorney General's Charitable Trust Division addressing concerns and specific suggestions for the Prescott Park Arts Festival.

The arts festival has received backlash from a small group of residents who oppose the festival. The complaints have varied from too much noise coming from the park, to visitors and residents breaking the no alcohol policy that exists in the Portsmouth park.

READ: Citations and fines coming after complaints of drinking in NH park

In an open letter to Terry Knowles, the assistant director of the Attorney General's Charitable Trust Division, Portsmouth resident Kathleen Cavalaro writes, "There is a small group of individuals who will stop at nothing to see the festival go away, and will use whatever tactic necessary to make it happen." Such tactics include handing out flyers, digging through trash to find evidence of alcoholic beverages and dressing up as beer bottles to warn families of drinking in the park.

Cavalaro went on to detail the most recent incident of a drinking citation in the park, a citation that she claims to be the only alcohol citation every to be written during a PPAF event. According to the letter, the citation was only issued after two members of the group opposed to the festival took it upon themselves to find people violating the policy. After finding one individual in violation, the members reported to PPAF employees and the police officer onsite and allegedly "harassed the police officer on duty until he was coerced to write a citation, even though he did not actually witness the alcohol being imbibed on-site."

The letter ends with a statement that the "undersigned here, as a community, do not feel that this is a problem that needs attention from the charitable trusts unit or our law enforcement officers. We, as a community, ask that you stop listening to the manufactured complaints of a group acting in bad faith and allow the festival and the city to continue their great work enriching our city."

The President of PPAF, Ben Anderson, is said to give a curtain speech before each PPAF event, making is "very clear" that any alcoholic consumption is prohibited "on a condition of trust."

"The narrative of problem drinking in the park or a 'culture of drinking' is an invention," Cavalaro told NH1 News on Thursday. "This was never an issue until a friend of these people's was barred from the park for harassing staff over noise, and it was suspected that alcohol was involved. Any talk about concern over the trust or history of the park are disingenuous and they have said as much."

"Every one of the people involved here originally started moving against the festival over noise," she said. "The alcohol issue is part of a multi-pronged effort to force the festival into unsustainability by attacking revenue sources and scaring potential patrons away. They don't represent a majority or even a plurality of park attendees, Portsmouth citizens, or neighbors. It's about 5-10 agitators with a lot of time on their hands."

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