For nine years, the Celtic festival, “Scots on the Rocks,” has been held every fall in Moab. The festival includes traditional highland dance, athletic competitions, and bagpipe music; representatives from over 30 clans usually attend. This year, organizers are planning the event for the weekend of October 14.
Last year, for the first time ever, the festival was held at the Center St. Ballparks instead of the Old Spanish Trail Arena.
In April, the Moab City Council denied festival organizers’ 2022 event application, reporting that some nearby residents had complained that the festival was too loud. Councilmembers denied the permit on the basis that the event presented “significant or unacceptable adverse impacts upon the community, other businesses, or residents, which cannot reasonably be mitigated,” according to the municipal code.
“You can try and fling things at me, saying I don’t like bagpipes, but you’re going to have a hard time making that stick, because I do like them, and that has nothing to do with it.”Rani Derasary
Since then, many locals have voiced their opposition to the denial, saying they support the festival at the ballparks. A petition organized on change.org by Moab local Joseph Lema received over 1,640 signatures with more than 90 comments; and during the regular city council meeting on June 28, five citizens, in addition to the event organizers, came to the meeting to voice their desire to see the festival at the ballparks again this year.
“To not allow the festival to be held in the center of town is truly disheartening,” Lema said at the meeting. “This event is about culture, education, family, and celebrating heritage and community … It saddens me to hear that people complained about bagpipes playing.”
Michael Liss, who lives on Center Street, said he enjoys hearing the noise from the ballparks and said the noise is what creates Moab’s culture.
“This is about hearing the life of the city,” he said. “You guys have to remember, you’re not a wilderness council, you’re not a village council, you’re not even a town council. You’re a city council … cities were created because people wanted to come together, to share culture and ideas and music.”
Dan and Marta Lamont, the organizers of the festival, said the festival’s location in the center of town resulted in the highest attendance numbers they’ve ever seen.
“We want to bring it into the city, as we did last year, so more locals can walk in,” Dan said.
Mayor Joette Langianese said the council decided to reconsider the permit for the Scots on the Rocks festival during the June 28 meeting because the organizers, the Lamonts, re-applied to hold the event at the ballparks with a few notable changes.
The changes include moving the entertainment stage to face the library instead of homes; moving the dance competition to Star Hall; moving the pipe band competition to the east field; moving the pipe and drum solo competition to the northeast field; not allowing dogs; and designating parking spaces for library patrons. The changes were suggested by city staff in a meeting with organizers in May.
Since the permit was already once denied, the council had to acknowledge that with those changes in the most recent application, the “adverse impacts” that once called for the event permit denial had been “reasonably mitigated,” in accordance with the municipal code.
“I think organizers made a good faith effort to mitigate this,” said Councilmember Tawny Knuteson-Boyd, who voted against the permit denial in April. “For a long time, we’ve had people ask us for different kinds of events, or events that weren’t necessarily motorized, and this is the kind of event that people seem to be wanting … I can’t square it in my head that we could have other musical events or other sporting events but somehow this one falls out of that realm.”
Councilmember Luke Wojciechowski said he’s still thinking about the residents who originally spoke out against the event being at the ballpark, the reason why he voted to deny the permit in April. He said those residents, who live near Center Street, are constantly exposed to noise and asked that any future event organizers try to find other locations in the city that would have less of an impact on residents. He suggested school properties and Old City Park, which was recently the center of a noise debate concerning pickleball courts.
Councilmember Rani Derasary said the original event permit denial wasn’t due to a certain form of music being played—many comments from residents cited the fact that the Moab Folk Festival is also held at the ballparks every fall, and residents criticized the council’s prior decision because of that. She said what is different about Scots on the Rocks is the volume of noise, which she doesn’t believe is adequately addressed in the new permit.
“We had individuals commenting that they could hear this as far as Mountain View,” she said. Mountain View Drive is behind the Moab Brewery off of Highway 191. “My argument would be that this is still inappropriate for the distance of the volume of noise traveling. You can try and fling things at me, saying I don’t like bagpipes, but you’re going to have a hard time making that stick, because I do like them, and that has nothing to do with it.”
She added that the council’s job is to be consistent, and she views a second denial of the permit as consistent.
“We’re stuck here in this crappy job of having to decide, is every venue appropriate for every event? And much as we hate that job, and let me tell you, I do hate this, I am forced to try to look at that,” Derasary said. “And I do feel like I did try to do my due diligence.”
The motion to approve the new permit was approved 3-2, with Derasary and Councilmember Kalen Jones dissenting.