published: Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Highway Park residents, HCSO in culture clash over Easter event
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
LAKE PLACID - Highway Park residents have voiced major concerns over the ongoing dispute between the Easter celebration organizers and the Highlands County Sheriff's Office over the past several weeks.
Described as a "culture clash" by former resident Thida Black, many other residents have become concerned with the true nature of the HCSO's motives to disrupt a traditional event in a primarily black community.
Black is just one of the few individuals who has voiced their concerns regarding the ongoing dispute.
"Last year the Sheriff's Office declared martial law on our community, which was uncalled for. (Sheriff Susan) Benton's argument was that we followed no rules. Highlands County doesn't have a special events ordinance for us to follow when the county promised to have something in place for 2013.
"The citizens of Highway Park formed a committee and have been meeting every week regarding Easter. We are committed to organizing the event to make it more family friendly and more safe, but I personally feel that Ms. Benton, along with other county officials, will place lots of hurdles in front of us to prevent us from having the event," Highway Park resident and co-organizer Onterial Clark wrote in an email.
The event, which was held consecutively for 10 years in the Highway Park area with little to no issues, had become a beloved tradition for residents and the many visitors it has drawn.
The tensions began last March when Benton issued a postponement of the Easter event/Block Party due to concerns over safety and costly overtime.
Benton told county commissioners last March that the event caused a traffic issue.
According to Benton, the vehicles and people in the street blocked the flow of traffic in the area and would not allow for emergency vehicles to pass through in the event they were needed in the area.
Other concerns including large attendance, profane music, illegal drug use and sanitation were brought up to commissioners.
Since then, meetings have been held between the sheriff's office and county commission to discuss updating or creating new guidelines and ordinances for special events, HCSO Public Information Officer Nell Hays said Tuesday morning.
Benton has said numerous times that the safety of residents and law enforcement members are top priority for this and all events in the county.
Neither Benton nor Chief Deputy Mark Schrader were available for comment Tuesday and phone calls and emails to Clark were also not returned at press time.
"People will come regardless of what we work out with the county, so I just hope county officials sincerely try to help us and not purposely place obstacles in front of us," Clark's email read.
The Highway Park Big Wheels 'n High Heels Easter Sunday Car and Bike Show has been slated to begin at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 31.
Gold Cadillac (by: Blindman - 3/22/2013)
I remember seeing this beautiful old gold Cadillac with big wheels cruising up HWY 27 around Lake Placid one time, I just know they were going to this clan-type rally. The Caddy was a convertible and as it smoothly passed me I couldn't help but stare. Three black gents were riding in style and the one in the back seat looked over and saw me staring and with a mouth full of gold teeth he smiled. Although the smile seemed friendly enough, I was terribly frightened, I just don't know why.
Good Lord (by: powershot - 3/21/2013)
I would hate to see what the Christmas celebration is like.
Party (by: HaveFun - 3/21/2013)
It is their party and can call it what they want .... they can celebrate Easter how they want. I think they should be able to have this party! However, during a hurricane they tell people to leave and if they don't they will not be able to come in and help them when conditions become too dangerous..... I think the same should apply with this party! I think it should be posted if you go to this party and something happens our law enforcement and fire and rescue will not be responding to anything in/at this "block party" because the event was warned/posted in advance with posts in the area that you are entering at your own risk and has been deemed too dangerous for officials to respond to any emergency events in this area and that these officials will not be putting their lives at risk to help anyone. Also, put detour signs in the area along with enter at your own risk signs to help people detour around this area. Let the party begin.....
it aint right (by: Anne Mae Williams - 3/21/2013)
Lordy one thing for sure they aint celebrating Jesus.
I agree! (by: Mrs. Anna Atkins - 3/21/2013)
I agree with Sheriff Susan Benton on this issue. I am a christian resident of that area and for the past few years on Easter this disturbance has done nothing but cause problems. The music, drugs, alcohol, fights, gun shots, and garbage have been nothing but an issue for the residents like myself who live around this area. I feel this event should no longer go on. I'm glad Sheriff Susan Benton has stepped in the following years and is trying to prevent this event from happening. I hope everything works in her matter and this will no longer be a problem for us residents. Thank you!
I don't get it (by: bAdLeY bEnT - 3/20/2013)
Large crowds gather in the streets, there is drinking, drug use, profane music blaring, and people doing who only knows what else they do at a "block party". And this is what they call "Easter celebration"? It don't sound like it got a thing to do with Easter!
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