Friday, August 1, 2014

Chive Fest in City Park (meeting) turned out a fairly polarized group

by Linda Drake
July 31, 2014

These two accompanying illustrated views of Chive Fest in City Park turned out a fairly polarized group (of 70-80? - didn’t do a count) on Wednesday night at a meeting room in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

By now you may have read/heard about the Chive Fest, scheduled for August 16th in City Park, and perhaps wondered what the pros and cons might be, and indeed, why there might be pros and cons. Young people have been having concerts of which their elders disapproved for eons, so what’s the big deal? What follows is what I (old white lady) figured out from multiple sources over the past several days, including two public meetings. [Please note that I lack an editor and that these “facts” are those substantiated to the best of my ability.]

It sounds like the Chivettes, like the one pictured here - but presumably dry - hand out bags of RAK at Chive Festivals. What is RAK? Random Acts of Kindness, and RAKS are routinely performed by members, like the $20 in the other photo. Chivers are a loosely organized group of people who have meetups, enjoy partying, and do good deeds. Much of their community occurs on the internet at where one may spend countless hours, but The Chive is rewarding its most active participants nationwide this summer by staging real-life concerts. The Chive makes money, but the concerts do not, per Scott Nichols, President of All Phases Events Group, organizer from Boulder. It sounds like a huge promotion for Chive, which will attract more attention and get more people involved in the website - and perhaps even RAK. Yes, The Chive makes a bunch of money. It has also created a culture where its members give back in smaller and larger ways to others while partying on. This RAK mentality caused The Chive to create Chive Charities, and presto - making money simultaneously with making people feel good by donating money was born.

Many Park Hill Neighbors expressed concern last night about noise, logistics, clean-up, damage to Park, etc; but the over-arching issue for them was not with Chive Fest or Chivers (with the exception of one or two comments) but with The City’s Admission Based Events Policy - which according to the oft-quoted (by Parks & Rec) City Attorney - makes allowing events like Chive Fest legal.

The genesis of this policy is suspect to some citizens and City Park Friends and Neighbors (CPFAN). A while back the Parks and Rec Advisory Board (PRAB) met with representatives of the Registered Neighborhood Organizations (RNOs like Greater Park Hill Community) over a two-year period. They dubbed this a city-wide Task Force. At the end of the two years, in 2010, PRAB wrote The ABE Policy, which was then approved by City Council. It is this policy that is supposedly legal and gives City Parks and Rec Manager Lauri Dannemiller the power to permit admission-based events. Before that, City Parks were freely used by the public and only public events were permitted. (PRAB is an adjunct of City Administration, its members being appointed by Council Members and the Mayor.)

Of note, though City Park is on the list of Parks allowing ABEs; Cheesman, Sloan’s Lake, and Washington Park are not. At Monday’s meeting of the CPFAN Board a participant said that this was because the Councilpersons from the districts with those parks got them removed from the ABE list, and our Councilperson did not remove City Park.

CPFAN and sympathizers believe that City Park should be retained in an open, pastoral state, available to use by the public, as groups or individuals. They are opposed to ABEs on what is public land because it means private organizations make money off a public resource that citizens support through taxes. They say that the City Charter specifically outlawed the leasing of park land to private for-profit organizations, prior to the recent P&R-interpreted policy.

Meanwhile others welcome events like Chive Fest. One attendee said, “26,000 people live within the neighborhoods around the Park. A vocal minority of 300 does not speak for all of us.” He advised CPFAN, “Don’t say ‘we.’” On FaceBook Neighborhood pages supporters have ranged from those who support unlimited events and activities in City Park to those who are simply excited about Chive Fest, plus those resentful that CPFAN wrote a letter protesting the event to City officials, ostensibly speaking for all voters.

Nichols said that they chose City Park for Chive fest because it was in their mind the best location on that date. “This park is a great, low-cost place to do business.” He and Chive initially considered a public event, but opted for an ABE because that would keep the numbers lower and give them the ability to manage the crowd activity completely. Though the crowd is permitted for 7500, he said they are expecting around 4500 people to show up. He said that this is roughly the size of a concert at the Fillmore. The Black Arts Festival, he said, had 50,000 people. This will be similar to Cultivate and Tour de Fat in size and impact.

Chivefest Chicago had 4700 attendees and Seattle, 4600. He said that this is a for-profit event, but it is not revenue-generating for Chive. He said that the event in Chicago cost over $1 million to put on for an intake of $325,000. “We have not made money on this event,” he said, referring to Denver. “We wanted to give something offline to expand the brand,” said the Chive representative from Austin.

Nichols, who coordinated Cultivate, said that for a non-profit event, they are allowed seven days for set-up/take-down and the actual event. Because Chive fest is a for-profit event, they will have to do this in four days - two day set-up, the event, and one day take-down.

Road traffic (it looked like 23rd on the map he showed) will be limited for four days. There will be a 6-foot high construction fence around the perimeter of the East Meadow, which is that meadow between the Museum and the lake. There will be two stages, which have been faced to minimize noise in the neighborhoods. There will be a total of 70 security personnel for the event.

Their goal is to replicate Seattle and Chicago and have no arrests or legal incidents, and to have the event go so smoothly that they would be welcomed back.

All costs accrue to Chive, including extra officers, traffic management, overflow issues and impact.

There is a plan for parking. Though the festival runs from noon to 10pm, most of the crowd is expected after 5. They are estimating that 1,000 will arrive prior to that, with the remaining 3500 after that. They will have Right-of-Way enforcement, they will have access to alternate lots including 1200-1500 additional spaces at the Zoo and the Museum after hours. “This is a young crowd and we are encouraging the use of Uber and LIFT.” One audience member added, “My husband and I will be coming from Boulder and staying downtown in a hotel. We plan to drink so we will be taking a taxi to the event.” Nichols said that this testimony is characteristic of Chivers. They have fun, but do so responsibly.

Another audience member raised a concern about her wedding, which is that day at the Museum. Nichols, whose company had been in communication with her via email, said, “We will be assuring parking for your guests and we will stop the music for the 20-30 minutes of your wedding ceremony.”

There will be 18 port-o-lets, six at the box office, and groups of 3-4 in key areas that may have been problematic before.

Conscious Alliance is the group they use to obtain their liquor license through the City. Wine and beer will be sold to the general admission crowd. The VIP group, a couple of hundred people, will have access to liquor.

Nichols said that two to three days before the event, all the ticket holders will be emailed info on traffic, parking, and advised to used alternative forms of transportation.

Allowable noise levels by the City is 80 decibels at the nearest residence; Nichols said that they anticipate it will be more like 55-65, as well as for the animals at the Zoo. It will be around 95 at the stage.

Though the permit for Park us comprises three percent of the Park land, Nichols said Chive will be responsible for any spillover damage, as well as any turf or other damage inside the permitted area. 3% of 330 acres is…about 10 acres. City Park comprises the Zoo, the Museum, two lakes, parking.,_Denver

The reason that the City had not yet issued the permit for Chive Fest is that they were waiting for All Phases to complete all City requirements. Neither All Phases nor City staff offered details on this, but to those present, it sounded like All Phases, with their level of organization, would easily obtain said permit.

If citizens have any issues with the Festival, Nichols encouraged them to call Kelsey, the Community Liaison at 303-681-7833, who will start taking calls Wednesday before the event. “If you have any issues or concerns, we will follow up.” You may also email Kelsey Brown now at Another option for citizens if they have problems with noise, traffic, etc, is to call 311, register their concerns, and ask for follow-up on what actions are taken to resolve the issue.

After Nichols’ and The Chive presentation, City Parks and Rec minions fielded questions, but since they had pretty much been answered by Nichols, they heard complaints about ABE for ten minutes. One person said, “You’re on a bit of a leash. It seems to me that the Manager and the Mayor’s Office are demonstrating poor form to not come here and talk to us. There is an assumption in this policy that these events will not harm the neighbors, and that’s not true. I do think that this event doesn’t belong here.”


  1. Anonymous10:40 AM

    Please consider filing your concerns/compaints via 311 reports because that's the only way to compile a record of citizen input. Ask that you receive a reply form Denver Parks and Recs. The promoter has no obligation whatsoever to do this or release any information to the City or News media. If people want to call the promoter's number, fine, but also enter a 311 report. It's easy to do it online - - than via phone. Again, this is the only way to record & receive meaningful feedback from the City. Otherwise comments/complaints are just rumor.

    1. Dear Anonymous: It used to be that we could file complaints with the appropriate government agency for which the complaint was pertinent. The fact that we must go to 311 is another example of how bureaucratic, impersonal and unaccountable Denver City government has become. I did in fact go through 311 to ask if a liquor license had already been issued for Chive Fest. That was more than 10 days ago and I still have no answer. That we have no choice but to call 311 to talk to a municipal government official is a travesty. That we spend somewhere around $1 million to support 311 is obscene. Denver has completely lost its bearings.

  2. I do not believe that Admission Based Events were ever approved by City Council. The Manager of Parks has broad powers to make these kind of policy decisions and based upon forecasts of $500,000 per year in revenue from ABEs, the Parks Advisory Board approved and the Manager implemented the policy. There was a caveat that the policy would be reassessed after 1 year. But of course, after one year, the projection of all this money had not materialized. In fact there had not be even 1 event after 1 year. So they said, we will wait another year to reevaluate the policy, knowing most people would forget about the pledge to re-evaluate the policy. There is also a pledge that revenue in any particular park from an ABE held there, will go to that park. This is a clear violation of the Charter which requires that such revenue go into the General Fund to be budgeted for the next year. So this may just be another example of paying lip service which mollifies the public. That I know of nobody has ever checked to see if the small amount of money P&R has made has actually gone to these parks. If Chive generates $300,000, P&R is supposed to get 10 or 15% or $30 to $45,000. Should be a good start on renovating the Dustin Redd Playground!

  3. Thank you both for your corrections, additions, and input. I believe that we were told, at two different times during the 7/30 meeting, that any Chive Fest money would go to the General Fund, that it could not go specifically to DPR (or City Park in that case). What you say re: the passing of the Policy makes sense, Larry, because Kevin Patterson, as then-Manager of DPR, signed it with the understanding that the policy would stand, per the City Attorney's Office at that time. This is a really sloppy, at best, way to make policy. I could call it a lot of other things... I watched several of the You-Tube segments, including one from 2009 where former Councilwoman Cathy Donohue warned City Council that they could not give away their zoning power over Parks to the Manager of Parks and Rec without a vote of the people, per the City Charter. Larry, was this done in one of the "housecleaning" amendments to the Charter during a general election (when attention was elsewhere)? Is this how the P & R Manager obtained exclusive power over the Parks? Thx!