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Large crowds for Music on Main at the new stage at the Visitors Center have led to a big fuss.
In one of those "only in Hendersonville" controversies, dancers are complaining about a lack of space and sitters are grumbling that the dancers block their view while the county tourism director fumes that angry dancers "are aggressively getting in my face."
"They act like I owe that to them," said Beth Carden, the Tourism Development Authority director. "What's happened is because of my expansive marketing, more people are coming to the event. I got up at the second concert and said this was a gift to the community and to the visitors, and they only heard part of it. It's to bring people to Hendersonville and it's to put heads in beds."
The new stage was reoriented to face north. The parking lot slopes down slightly toward the stage, creating an amphitheater effect.
"The dance floor is basically the same size it has been in the past," Carden said. "It's just that the crowds are growing."
Friday night there was no sign of tension as dancers, by couple and in line dancing, got up for every song, with plenty of room. Friday night's crowd was down because of thunderstorms in the area at the time. For the first two Music on Main events under clear skies, about 5,000 people turned out, she said.
Dick McAlister said on Monday that he and his wife, Jenny, first discovered Music on Main by chance when a shopkeeper encouraged them to check it out.
"So we had dinner at one of the restaurants, and walked down there and we said, 'This is wonderful,' and we kept coming back," he said.
The couple, who lived in Charlotte at the time, decided to move to Hendersonville in part because they loved Music on Main. McAlister is so aggravated that he's leading an effort for freedom of dance. He wrote to the county commission chair and the city's mayor complaining about the dance space and what he called rude treatment from Carden.
"She was quite defensive and nonresponsive to the attendees," he said. "Actually she was somewhat abusive in some of the language she used."
The group of dancers call themselves the Dance Buddies. They just want to keep dancing.
"Most of the group, including my wife, likes to line dance," McAlister said. "We take up a fair amount of room but it's manageable. With the location of the stage and the fact that it's sitting down lower than the seating area it's created some controversy. The dancing area is located on that slope, which the folks consider a hazard. They feel put upon by the fact that they're supposed to dance on that slope."
"Even with the ill-designed, ill-located bandstand we think there's a solution that would satisfy everyone: Move the dancing area behind the seating area and give a level area for the dancers." Another idea, he said, is to create space in the middle, with seating on either side. McAlister said Carden has dismissed his group's ideas.
"She's taken a very defensive posture and has been unwilling to listen to suggestions from people," he said, "so we're searching for someone to get their attention. ... We took the position that it was a public thing, publicly funded and she should listen to us."
Carden said the dancers were themselves aggressive and demanding. McAlister acknowledged that was possible.
"I did not see that myself but there are a couple in the group that could very well have done that," he said. "I probably could name them pretty quickly. And I have cautioned them about that. I think we've calmed the situation to that extent.... She's alienated the Dance Buddies to this point because of that confrontational attitude a couple of them have taken."
He hopes a group from among the dancers can meet with Carden and perhaps the TDA.
"I'm aggressive but I'm not hot-headed," he said. "I think we could get a representative number of them together that would be willing to do that and those I would invite would be the ones that could maintain decorum."
Carden said the dancers ought to take turns.
"We have by far exceeded numbers that we have had in the past," she said. "We have up to several hundred dancers and over 5,000 people there. The dance floor is very small. We'd like for them to take turns, let other people have a chance to get up there."