The annual O-H Festival will be a street festival only on Saturday. The night concert planned for Oneonta’s Neahwa Park has been cancelled. The decision by SUNY Oneonta came at the end of a day which saw the city withdraw permission for the park to be the site of the concert headlined by Sean Kingston. Kingston had been the focus of protests and an on line petition calling for the cancellation.
The O-H Festival has been a yearly gathering of which the original intent was to promote comradery between SUNY Oneonta students and Hartwick students, the neighboring colleges in Oneonta. The O-H Festival has been an held annually since 2006.
Early Friday, Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig posted the following announcement on the city’s website: “Per City of Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, due to recent events which have raised concerns for the safety of all participants at the April 20th scheduled OH Fest concert in Neahwa Park, the City has decided to withdraw the Park Use Permit for that event effectively immediately.”
Later in the afternoon, SUNY Oneonta’s Vice President for Student Development, Franklin Chambers, announced: “The president, senior members of her staff, the University Police Department chief, chief facilities planning and safety officer, director of student activities, legal counsel and I met to discuss this. We assessed the feasibility of relocating the concert to Alumni Field House, where the college has staged several concerts through the years, on such short notice. Our decision came down to safety. OH-Fest planning is a months-long process involving the City, Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta. Given less than 36 hours to change the venue, we simply do not believe it would be possible to ensure the level of security we deem necessary for an event of this type and size.”
The street festival part of O-H Fest will go on as scheduled, 1:00PM to 5:00PM on Main Street.
Sean Kingston, the scheduled headliner of the event ending concert, has become a target of protest by sexual assault victims and their supporters. Kingston, along with a bodyguard and band member, were accused of the gang rape of a teenager in 2010. Kingston settled a civil lawsuit brought against him by the victim. Since then, several appearances by Kingston have been cancelled at some college campuses. Earlier in the week, a petition was posted on line objecting to the scheduled Kingston appearance and urging the cancellation of his performance.
The concert was not the only issue impacting this year’s O-H festival. There have been ongoing concerns regarding alcohol consumption and other behavior issues at past festivals. Mayor Herzig was also upset about, what he saw as an oversight on the part of city and college officials in scheduling the festival during Holy Week, just before Easter.