Concern over 'Chunky Sunday' gathering in Clearwater - FOX 13 News

Concern over 'Chunky Sunday' gathering in Clearwater

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Clearwater city manager Bill Horne can tick off the problems associated with gatherings called "Chunky Sunday."

"Large crowd, illegal parking, open alcohol, loud music, tailgating, food vendors," he recited to FOX 13 News. "What isn't emphasized clearly, which should be, is that this Chunky Sunday event really is attended by the African American community in Tampa Bay. So we're talking about an activity that is really designed to attract a much larger community than what's represented in the neighborhood."

Horne is familiar with the issues because they surfaced in Clearwater for a few weeks three years ago. They re-surfaced this past April when Memorial Day weekend's Chunky Sunday attracted an estimated 1,500 people to Clearwater Beach.

Most of the informal gatherings have been in a pair of small neighborhood parks. One of them is Cherry Harris Park where nearby resident Jackie Moon said the crowds are large.

"Usually it's a lot of people, you know 500, 600 people just come out here to have a good time."

James Lifherd, another park patron, said the gatherings bring people together.

"To me, it's really good for the community -- everybody gets together and everybody should have a good time."

YouTube videos show crowds of mostly young people dancing to loud music while other people look at customized automobiles.

"They show their cars around and they ride around showing it, and they've got their loud music going," said park patron Michael Thomas.

All of the people in the park FOX 13 News spoke to do not object to the activities.

The city manager compared the gatherings to a flash mob.

"Any social gathering activity that overwhelms the public space so that it can't support it, we require a special event application," Horne said. However, "We can't find anybody, no one will come forward and tell me I am responsible for Chunky Sunday, let's sit down with the city and let's work this out."

Horne said if there is a formal organizer, the city would consider a larger venue, such as downtown's Coachman Park. However, a special use permit would be required. That typically requires proof of liability insurance and reimbursement to the city for expenses such as police and trash services.

Horne said Clearwater's police chief will meet next week with advocates and critics of Chunky Sunday. It is not known who, if anybody, will claim to be an organizer.

In 2000, Chunky Sunday crowds in St. Petersburg became weekly gatherings of 5,000 or more people. A spokesman for St. Petersburg's Police Department said the gatherings shrank with strict enforcement of existing ordinances.

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