Church fest fences out rowdy teens

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

St. Clair Shores — St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church kicked off its annual spring festival Friday but there was one noticeable difference to this year’s three-day event: an 8-foot tall temporary fence around the property.

People walk past the new fence Friday during the St. Joan of Arc’s festival in St. Clair Shores.

Last month, Monsignor G. Michael Bugarin, St. Joan of Arc’s pastor, told parishioners the fence was going to be put up to keep out rowdy youths and unruly teens.

The fence, complete with turnstiles at the entrances and exit signs, looks like something seen at a venue for rock concerts.

“Everything is going very well,” Bugarin said Friday afternoon. “It’s been very positive.”

The festival, which runs through Sunday, is the latest event in the area forced to deal with teen troublemakers. Nearby, Grosse Pointe Woods has canceled its traditional fireworks display this year over concerns about teen activity two years ago.

On Friday afternoon, the crowd at the festival seemed to be having a good time and weren’t bothered by the new fence and tighter security measures.

A sign with new festival rules is seen, Friday May 20, 2016, during the St. Joan of Arch Spring Festival in St. Clair Shores.

Patrick McGraw, 48, of Eastpointe was among the festivalgoers Friday.

“It’s a nice event, and I’ve always like coming here for it,” he said. “We always have a good time.”

McGraw said his 9-year-old daughter, Lisa, attends school at St. Joan of Arc and their family has made the spring festival a family event every year for the last three years.

He also said he doesn’t blame the church for stepping up security at the event.

“I think it’s a good idea to keep the riffraff out,” he said. “Kids nowadays aren’t respectful.”

St. Joan is on Overlake near Greater Mack and Eight Mile. It has held its spring festival every year for the last 46 years. The event is one of the major fundraisers the church holds throughout the year.

But in the past few years, Bugarin said groups of teens have come to the festival to start fights and ruin the fun for others.

As a result, the church opted to implement new, tougher security at the fair, including 1,750 feet of temporary fencing around it. Bugarin said the fencing added an expense of about $20,000 to the festival, but was worth it.

Crowds are seen, Friday May 20, 2016, during the St. Joan of Arch Spring Festival in St. Clair Shores.

The parish is also charging those 5 and older $1 for admission to offset the cost.

Among its other new security measures at the event: anyone younger than 18 is not allowed into the festival after 6 p.m., unless accompanied by an adult. Those adults also must show a valid driver’s licenses or state-issued ID.

In addition, no one is permitted to bring backpacks into the event at any time.

Church officials also said its security initiatives for this year’s festival is nothing new at civic events or similar festivals around Metro Detroit.

“They’re at just about any festival or event you go to,” Bugarin said. “We’re used to fences.”

The monsignor also said he liked that the turnstiles at the festival’s gates can keep a tally of how many people pass through them.

“Now, we’ll know exactly how many people come through,” he said. “It’s kind of nice.”

Like McGraw, Rob Latta, 37, of Harper Woods brought his family to St. Joan of Arc’s festival on its opening day. He said he’s been attending the festival for the last 20 years.

He also said he applauds the church for trying to make the event safer for everyone.

“I love it,” Latta said. “I like the fact they’re charging admission and keeping out some of the riffraff and people who aren’t interested in family events and the rides. It’s definitely a more low-key, stress-free environment this year.”

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