Waterfront Association Challenged on Saint Pat's Festival

The biggest party of the year is still ten months away, and somebody else wants to throw it. For years, the Savannah Waterfront Association has held the annual St. Patrick's Day Festival. But now they may have some competition.

Local businessman Jackie Sommers has offered to pay $3,000 to rent Rousakis Plaza next year. He says with the Waterfront Association running things, the minorities in town are being ignored.

"The Waterfront Association is very proud of the events we've put on in the last several years," the association's Scott Searcy said.

Since 1999, the Waterfront Association has put 50 percent of all the profits earned during the festival back into River Street. But Sommers says that's not enough.

"The black population in Savannah is 57 percent black, and they have no participation on River Street," he said.

Sommers says other nonprofit organizations besides the Waterfront Association should be able to raise money on River Street during the St. Patrick's Day Festival, so he has offered to reserve Rousakis Plaza to do just that. "We're not trying to run the festival, we're trying to get the space for nonprofit organizations to have fundraisers," he said. "They've been left out."

"That's news to me," said the Waterfront Association's Searcy. "We haven't heard anything from city officials about the permit for next year on other people doing the event."

WTOC will follow this story and report any new developments.

Reported by: Hena Daniels, hdaniels@wtoc.com