Hip hop organizers working with county on concert

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Event to have positive, non-violent message

By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

Two of the organizers of the Labor Day Hip Hop Extravaganza that was cancelled by a court order met with the Levy County Commission and said their event was meant to be one with a positive message that was misunderstood. 

Leary Crawford of Gainesville, a former Williston resident with roots that go back several generations in Levy County, and Norman James Jr. said they have the proper paperwork to apply for a music festival permit and will be returning to the commission to set a new concert date. 

The concert, originally planned for Aug. 31, would have brought in entertainers from Tampa, South Florida and Texas to the site of an old RV park on U.S. 27 near Williston. 

When the Sheriff's Office found out the event did not have a county music festival permit, officers alerted the Levy County Commission and a court injunction to halt the event was sought and granted. 

The action came just months after a shooting at the Williston Crab Fest left one man dead and four others wounded. One man has been arrested in the shooting and is awaiting trial. 

Crawford's presentation to the commission on Tuesday is part of the process for setting a new concert date, he said in a phone interview after the meeting. 

"I am going to request to have the hip hop extravaganza," he said. Crawford said he would like to have it within the next 30 days so he can recoup some of the money he invested in the Labor Day event. 

But the concert is one with a message, the military veteran and father of two told commissioners. 

"We as nonprofit corporation teamed up to bring an awareness of violence in our streets," Crawford said. "I'm not a drug user. I am not a thief. I am not a thug. And I am not a trouble maker.

"We aim to get a message across to our peers," he said outlining that for young people "it's hard to get their attention unless you put it in a certain way."

Crawford said the concert organizers were uncertain why the event was stopped with one day's notice and he commended County Coordinator Fred Moody for working with him and the other organizers to bring the concert to Williston. 

"But we notice other events are not shut down," he said citing dove shoots and celebrity visits that draw large numbers of people being held without coming to the commission for an event permit. 

"We felt we were singled out," he said. "We should be able to get together and show the community we can get together without violence."

Commission Chair Ryan Bell of Chiefland (R-District 4) said, "You were only singled out because you didn't follow procedures and I think everyone in the county welcomes you as long as you follow procedures."

Bell went on, "I'm sure everyone would like to see you pull off a positive event."

Crawford said contrary to information supplied to the commission he had sanitation and toilet facilities for the concertgoers. 

Moody said he drove out to Williston and met with Norman James Jr. and took the special events permit application which also serves as a festival or concert application.

Commissioner John Meeks of Bronson (R-District 1) said when the Bronson Speedway held a musical event several years ago it had to obtain a special event permit even though it was being held on commercial property. 

County Attorney Anne Bast Brown said she has a file with special event applications from past events in her office. 

Crawford said he does not have a firm date for the concert, but he will be getting the signatures he needs on the permit application within the next two weeks and will go back before the commission. 

He said some of the problem with the cancelled concert was that people not organizing the event put out erroneous information about there being "no police" and "no rules" for it. 

"We advocate for good stuff," Crawford said.