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Art festival, comic book store at odds over scheduling

Comic book store upset over treatment from local art festival

SANFORD, Fla. – Free comic book day is just around the corner, and Smash Comics and Games in Sanford was planning to take part.

That is until this week, when the city told them the St. John's River Festival of the Arts is already scheduled for that day.

"After I got a call from the city, I actually got a call from one of the promoters and she explained to me over the phone that the reason our events can't mesh is that they run a high end art festival and that comic books don't quite mesh well with that," manager Brian Gaither said.

He said he was pretty insulted when he heard that, and so were his customers after he wrote a post about what happened on Facebook. Hundreds have since come to the store's defense.

Gaither said the city told them six months ago that they were allowed to host their event. They even had a deal worked out with the welcome center next door to use their space.

The director of code enforcement is telling a different story, though. He said he doesn't have any record of that conversation. He also said the store would have needed a special permit.

"At this point, the art festival controls which artists and what's going to happen within that footprint approved by the city commission," Darrel Presley said.

Gaither said no one told him about a permit nor said anything about a conflict of interest with another event until now. He said the store hosted a successful toys for tots event last November with no problem. So he's wondering what changed.

The board of directors for the festival didn't want to comment on camera and instead issued this statement:

The St. Johns River Festival of the Arts regrets that Smash Comics is unable to host their event outside. The City of Sanford requires a permitting process for all special events of which they did not apply. Unfortunately they were given permission to use property that was not owned by the grantor. As a result they can still host their event within the confines of their establishment. As an organization we have reached out to the proprietor to personally offer alternate venues and suggestions. These were not acceptable to him. We strongly urge Smash Comics to pursue the alternate venues suggested and obtain the permitting that the city requires allowing them to host an outside special event. We sincerely wish them the best and will continue to promote them as well as all Sanford businesses.

Gaither said he's really not trying to cause any problems, and feels like the two events could easily coexist.

"We're planning to bring in close to 2,000 extra people. That's more eyes for them and that would only help their artists even more," he said.