Molly McGowan, Times-News, June 30, 2011
Burlington recreation and police officials said Wednesday night that a credible threat of violence at this year’s Stone Soul Picnic led the city to cancel the event.
Representatives from the Police and Burlington’s Recreation and Parks departments met Wednesday night with more than 30 citizens upset over cancellation of the annual festival at North Park. The city announced plans to cancel the 13-year-old event last week and a petition was circulated this week asking the city to reinstate it.
Tony Laws, director of the Recreation and Parks Department, kicked off the two-hour meeting by listing the reasons already given for not holding the annual event on its scheduled date of July 16: The picnic had outgrown North Park in terms of numbers and parking. An estimated 5,000 people attended last year’s picnic.
The group was then told something that was not originally released to the public. Police had been informed that a threat of violence was planned for an individual at this year’s Stone Soul Picnic.
Upon learning of the threat, Laws said the information was shared with members of the Stone Soul Picnic’s planning committee, consisting of representatives from the city’s two departments and radio station 97.1 WQMG. Laws said the radio station, after consulting with its general manager decided, “They were pulling their sponsorship from the picnic, which took out all the entertainment.”
Barrett Brown, communications chair of the Alamance County branch of NAACP asked if, after they learned of the threat, thought was put into alternative safety measures at North Park before ultimately deciding to cancel. Capt. Eric Kearns said the ideas of temporary fencing and admission regulations were brought up, but, “97.1 cancelled the music and entertainment.”