Council seeks a balance of fun and safety at Friday the 13th



By David Judd

Put motorcycles front and centre again at Friday the 13th.
That was the message from a public meeting last week on ways to improve Port Dover’s long-running event.
Friday the 13th fans who attended the public meeting didn’t like innovations that Norfolk tried this September to increase public safety and better organize vendors.
The changes, such as reserving a stretch of downtown Main Street for vendors, reduced some of the traditional focus on motorcycles and their riders.
And a heavy police presence didn’t exactly put out the welcome mat for the estimated 75,000 bikers and fans who came to Port Dover.
A dozen bikers, business people and Friday the 13th fans turned out for a public comment session with county councillors last Tuesday.
Alexander “Sandy” Smith summed it up: “People come to Friday the 13th to see the motorcycles. Motorcycles should be front and centre and build all the other stuff around it.”
Friday the 13th should be a reunion and a celebration, added Gail Evans, a volunteer and former Harley Davidson shop owner.
Bikers want to ride on Main Street, park and see their friends, Ms. Evans said.
“When you take away Main Street, you’re taking away the focal point of the event,” she said.
Closing part of Main Street in September suddenly made it an unwelcoming and unfriendly place, Ms. Evans said.
Cam Lockerbie questioned the need for police to be armed with machine guns.
“The fact I ride a Harley Davidson, is that reason to exterminate me in a heartbeat?” he asked.
“How much was public safety increased? I don’t think it was.”
Mr. Lockerbie said the Sept. 13 event contained an “element of us against them” that wasn’t at previous events.
Jayne Laidlaw, owner of Route 6 Steel Horse boutique, said guests in town felt intimidated.
She said it was distressing to see Main Street empty at 10:30 in the morning.
Downtown businesses, she said, rely heavily on Friday the 13th for success.
Ms. Laidlaw asked why vendors were permitted to operate in front of some stores.
Craig Saunders said food vendors were inconveniently located in Powell Park and people had trouble getting around barriers that blocked vehicles from part of Main Street.
Brooke Martin, a member of environmental group Cleaning Up Norfolk, said the county must deal with cigarette butts, plastic water bottles and excessive garbage at big Friday the 13th events.
Mayor Kristal Chopp said council responded to requests from police, firefighters and EMS personnel to ensure emergency vehicles could navigate Main Street.
Barricades were erected in two places on Main Street to block traffic and create a space for vendors.
The barricades could be lowered for emergency vehicles.
Mayor Chopp noted a fire occurred on downtown Main Street this summer.
If the fire had taken place on Sept. 13, she asked, how would firetrucks have got through?
Smaller Friday the 13th events are expected next year in March and November.
Council will receive recommendations next summer to improve organization for the next big event in August 2021, Norfolk County’s Community Services General Manager Bill Cridland said.


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