Persimmon Festival to be smoke-free
Designated areas will be established
BY KRYSTAL SHETLER
April 2, 2013 MITCHELL — Smokers and other tobacco users will be relegated to designated smoking areas come September when the Persimmon Festival sets up in Mitchell. Discussion on the ordinance was varied during Monday’s regular council meeting. Council member Joey Slone said he talked to about 30 people, with only five of them in favor of the ban. Nancy Miller, another council member, said she received a phone call earlier Monday. The caller told her Mitchell was again “the laughing stock” if it passed the ban, and vendors would lose money if the rule was implemented. Councilman Everett Ferrel worried about enforcement. Matt England, another council member, replied by saying, “It will be a work in progress.” Council member Vicky Schlegel compared it to speeding. “It’s against the law, but people still speed.” Schlegel continued, “If you follow state law, there is actually very little space where you can smoke legally downtown as it stands now. Mitchell should be very proud of the Persimmon Festival. It takes a lot of work, with a lot of commitment and dedication by good people. Yet, people refer to it as the ‘Dirt Fest,’ and that’s sad. … I think this ban is a good step in the right direction of making the festival family-friendly.” Schlegel pointed out that, once upon a time, smoking was the norm, noting you could once smoke in hospitals, doctor’s offices and on planes. “We think that’s absurd today,” she said. The issue was originally brought forth to the council during its March meeting. Members tabled the idea then to allow for public input and for city attorney Byron Steele to draw up the law. Steele presented the ordinance, which states, “The Persimmon Festival shall be tobacco free. No person shall use tobacco products of any kind in any manner anywhere within the area where the Persimmon Festival is being conducted, except in such area or areas as may be designated ‘smoking area’ by the Persimmon Festival committee.” The fine, upon conviction, is $100 plus court costs. The ordinance passed, after council members suspended the rules of order, on a 4-1 vote. Slone voted against the measure. Mitchell Mayor Gary Pruett praised the city council for making the decision. A former smoker, he said he empathized with those who smoke, but he said now is the time for Mitchell to take a positive step forward to protect public health. “I don’t expect every person in town to stop smoking because of this, nor do I expect them to quit coming if it goes non-smoking,” Pruett said. “Smoking was once the norm, but we have learned a painful, hard lesson in what this costs us in term of the quality of life. “This ban will anger people, but I don’t think we’ll be the laughing stock. Quite the opposite, actually, because I think we’re taking the lead on an important issue aimed at protecting public health. “People have looked at Mitchell has a backwards community for far too long, … in part because of some practices we’ve refused to change, just like this issue. It’s just seven days a year. Wherein lies the harm for having fresh air for seven days?” The Persimmon Festival, sponsored by the Greater Mitchell Chamber of Commerce and organized by volunteers, is conducted the final full week of each September.
Contact Times-Mail Staff Writer Krystal Shetler at 277-7264 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.