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Town Council Denies Permit For Wing Fling Event At Lake

Click image for larger view: The Carolina Beach Town Council unanimously voted to deny an application to hold the 18th Annual Wing Fling event at the Carolina Beach Lake in April. (Pictured above: The event in 2011 held at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk.)

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council unanimously denied an application at their February 11th meeting to hold the 18th Annual Wing Fling event at the Carolina Beach Lake on South Lake Park Blvd April 5th.
The event has traditionally been held at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk.
Lynnea Mallalieu - Wing Fling Adviser/Organizer - explained to the Council, "I want to highlight the changes that we have proposed this year based on the last three years of receiving input from the Town. A significant change this year would be the location. I think that would be a benefit to all parties concerned. We are proposing to move from the Central Business District to the Lake. I think some of the concerns in the business district have revolved around road closures and sidewalk closures and the ability for people not attending the event to make it into the Boardwalk business areas and also the use of metal fencing."
Mallalieu explained, "I think by moving to the Lake would alleviate those concerns and issues in terms of peoples ability to access the business district plus the infrastructure at the lake. The availability of water and power. The infrastructure is very well laid out there in terms of water and power supplies for restaurants and our vendors."
She explained the availability for water supply connections along Cape Fear Blvd at the Boardwalk has been an issue in the past and the lake park is better equipped to provide that service.
Mallalieu explained, "Our second change - which I think again will be a benefit in keeping with the Town of Carolina Beach's community based philosophy - is to take Wing Fling sort of back to where we started from as a community family based event and have a family area, a family friendly zone with face painting, a children’s area to broaden our demographic and kind of go back to the history of the event where it was much more of a community based event."
She said the proposed date was Saturday April 5th and they would contract with the Carolina Beach Police Department for security.
Mallalieu said, "Several of our volunteers have already done the crowd management training the fire chief suggested to us last year so we still have several of our volunteers who are certified in the crowd management procedures. We would work very closely with the Town police and our own private event management staff that we have always contracted with."
Mallalieu said they would address parking by using a Town parking lot nearby and using a trolley to transport people to the event. She said, "A lot of our guests come by taxi and now there is the public bus that runs once every three hours down to Carolina Beach."
She said, "Our intention is to give back to the Town. We've done that the last three years that we've been here. We've given to the Katie B. Hines Senior Center, to the Help Center and to the local Step Up For Soldiers group. Our intention would be to again look at the charities the Town supports and give back to those organizations."
Council member Sarah Friede asked how much had been donated to those organizations.
Mallalieu said, "Last year's event, unfortunately we did not even break even with the rain and the weather. The student organizers took from their savings account and gave to the food pantry... it was either $1,000 to $1,500 and they gave $500 to Step Up For Soldiers. The year before when we were quite successful we gave $4,000 to the Katie B. Hines Senior Center."
Mallalieu said last year they had around 1,000 people come through with tickets. The year before they had approximately 1,800 people attend.
She explained, "Our numbers have always been less than 2,000 and historically over the years of the event we've gone anywhere from 4,000 to 2,000. Last year was our lowest attendance" due to poor weather conditions.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said, "You have the beer free zone snaking there along Lake Park but you have the toilets over in the parking lot and then we have a playground over there and I'm just curious why you wouldn't have the beer free zone over there by the playground for the kids."
Mallalieu said, "It's a suggestion I hadn't thought of" and she had previously attended other events examining how they laid out their events at the Lake.
Shuttleworth said, "I should let you know, I probably feel a little disingenuous asking you these questions because I don't support you being at the Lake. I've had a number of people calling me. I've had some feedback. There's been some pretty strong people suggest to me that this is an inappropriate activity, venue, at the lake. We've had this discussion before about their stage and basically a beer event."
He explained, "I appreciate the fact that you want to have a children's area but the reality is this has been notoriously known as a beer event. So having a beer party at the lake is something that we've denied the last two years. We had several people come in and ask to do that. I can't support you being down at the lake. I've heard from a couple of business owners, they're not excited about that. The people on Atlanta Avenue. As much as you might try and police, they're not happy about it. I've heard from property managers today and they're not happy about it."
Shuttleworth said, "The Central Business District is an issue that you've had. I don't know if you have resolved that or not. I will tell you that our head of Arts and Activities [Committee] sent us all an email which I'm sure you got which said flat out that she didn't support it being at the lake."
Mallalieu said, "We were just trying to follow suggestions provided by the Town."
Shuttleworth explained, "We have quite an intrusion on the neighborhoods around the lake throughout the summer. We have the movies on Sunday night and the Farmer's Market on Saturday and both of those are relatively family oriented and not to obtrusive."
He said, "We've worked on parking and we have a couple of off season events down there. The Step Up For Soldiers BBQ and the Chowder Cook-off."
He said there has been some "push back" and concerns expressed by some business owners on the Boardwalk regarding past events while others said the event was good for the business.
Town Event Coordinator Brenda Butler said Mallalieu wanted to schedule the event at the Lake on April 5th and, "I think the [amusement] rides will be here by then so they will not be able to have it down at the Boardwalk."
Butler said, "I'm the one that suggested to them when looking at the dates, why don't you try holding it at the lake."
Mark Goddard - a resident of Atlanta Avenue - said he understands giving to charity but, "It's got a history... it was at Hugh McRae Park and they didn't want it anymore with parking issues and drinking issues and they struggled with giving them an ABC permit. They went to the Battleship and they had an issue with parking around the Battleship area which has a whole lot more parking than what we have. They tried to go to the area right next to the convention center downtown and the New Hanover County leaders said no they would not support the event there. Then it came to Carolina Beach and sounds like it worked out really well downtown. But to hear that you would consider - given all the issues we've had with parking - moving that to the lake seems ill-advised. It's clearly 1,800 to 2,000 people that would show up. It's mostly out of town people that will come in for that."
He said, "We ask your support in not approving that."
Residents expressed concerns with other events that create a parking nightmare along Atlanta Avenue causing frustration for residents. One resident said there are often problems with people blocking their driveways and parking in front of their homes and arguing with residents trying to landscape their yards at the edge of the road.
Council member Leann Pierce said, "Before I was elected to Council I served on the Arts and Activities Committee and also on the Boardwalk Makeover and I can tell you this is one of the only events that I am aware of that we have multiple complaints about every year. I'm not happy to hold my breath during an event until it’s over to see if there are any incidents. Particularly last year we had multiple complaints. I had several emails and phones calls before the meeting today and I cannot support it at the Boardwalk or the Lake."
Councilman Gary Doetsch echoed the positions of other Council members saying he doesn't not support holding the event.
Council member Sarah Friede said she agrees with fellow council members and, "I live on Atlanta Avenue. I'm very sensitive to the issues there. I think everyone in that area is sensitive to the issues. It's really a shame. We have done such marvelous improvements at the lake and its such a wonderful place to gather but unfortunately we do have those people who can't respect someone's yard."
She said, "I can't ask the people most affected by it to go through another event where we have had in the business district significant complaints."
Friede said, "I would like them to find some sort of venue for the event. Maybe they need to be contained. Fort Fisher Recreation Area may be a better place for them. I think it’s just too much at the lake."
Mayor Dan Wilcox said, "I share their concerns. I was on council when you came to us to start the event the first time. We thought long and hard about it. Two of the deciding factors for me was that one, it would bring some additional funding to our non-profits which is important to all of us and two, I really thought it was an event that could grow with the Town and we could bring young folks here that otherwise wouldn't see the town and see some stuff they might like and come back in later years."
Wilcox said, "When it was at the Boardwalk it was still a difficult decision for me... It's one of the only events I know I do kind of hold my breath during the event hoping there won't be a problem." He said the charitable aspect is wonderful, but he could not support the event taking place at the lake and recommended perhaps they look at the Fort Fisher Recreation Area south of Kure Beach.
The Council voted unanimously to deny the application to hold the event at the Lake.
Mallalieu previously offered the history of the event leading to its move to Carolina Beach several years ago in a letter to the Gazette in 2013.
Mallalieu explained, "Seventeen years ago a UNCW student (please take a minute to see her on You Tube created Wing Fling as part of an internship. She formed teams of students to help with every aspect of major event planning including sponsorships, logistics, advertising, public relations, budgeting, human resource management, and charitable giving."
She explained, "For the first 12 years, the event was family-oriented and was held in Hugh MacRae Park. Unfortunately, like a perfect storm, the 13th year proved to be a pivotal point in the history of the event.  The weather was perfect, local radio kept announcing on-air for people to get to the event, there were no park rules in place with regard to the amount of alcohol people could bring, there was no age limit in terms of entering the event.  Despite the Wing Fling volunteers’ best efforts, the event was, out of our control.  We knew that if the event was to survive for a 14th year it needed to be revamped. We put new rules in place and found a new venue.  The event moved to the Battleship in 2010, and for the first time alcohol was controlled – there was no longer any BYOB and an age restriction of 21 and over was put in place to proactively prevent underage drinking.  The age restriction means that the event is not family-oriented.  This is something we hope to restore in future years but Carolina Beach town officials and police agree that the event should be 21+."
Mallalieu wrote, "The Battleship event was a success; however, the Battleship management decided that it was not feasible to repeat such a large event during the day while at the same time remaining open to the public as they are required to do because the ship is a national monument. They invited us back but only if we held the event in the evening, which we chose not to do."
She explained, "That brings us to the past few years in Carolina Beach.  In October 2010, we received an event permit from the City of Wilmington to hold the event on private property north of Cape Fear Community College, but the police put a block on any new alcohol permits because of a murder outside the Rhino Club in the downtown vicinity. We were told the event could still take place but that people would have to BYOB, which would again mean there was no control over the alcohol.  We were not prepared to
take a backward step and as such we had 10 days in early March 2011, to move the event.  In 2010, when we were looking for a venue other than the Battleship, officials from Carolina Beach had contacted us, and invited us to hold the event in Carolina Beach."