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Chunky Sunday rotation not final

(ran East, South, West)

The police hope that Chunky Sunday, the informal weekly gathering of thousands of people, will start rotating from Bartlett to Maximo and Campbell parks soon.

No matter what else happens, Jamaican Funk, the group that provides Chunky Sunday entertainment, wants to host a large party at Maximo during the Memorial Day weekend.

But whether the weekly summer gathering will shift to other parks sooner _ or at all _ is uncertain. City officials are still trying to sell the idea to some of the event's new hosts.

Campbell Park residents will probably hear the proposal from city officials this week.

The neighborhood association in greater Pinellas Point, the home of Maximo Park, has already voted to try the idea, but wants to put conditions on the park's use. Pinellas Point leader Brent Fisher is expected to announce those qualifications when he meets with Jamaican Funk and several neighborhood association presidents Monday.

Chunky Sunday is a time to listen to music, played either by an official disc jockey or car stereos, catch up with friends, flirt, enjoy a barbecue snack or show off a shiny vehicle.

For many neighbors of the event, Chunky Sunday, so named because it attracts a "chunk" of people, disturbs their peace, litters their community and keeps them prisoners in their homes when their streets become clogged with traffic.

Police Maj. Cedric Gordon said the city would like to give Bartlett Park "a break as soon as possible."

"We don't know exactly when this will be rotated to another park," Gordon said Friday.

"We want to work in partnership with the neighborhoods and young adults and look at this in a very analytical and comprehensive way to ensure that we can successfully move this large crowd."

At a meeting last week, the Greater Pinellas Point Civic Association voted to allow the gatherings at Maximo. Only a small portion of the community, which has more than 3,000 households, attended the meeting. Fewer still remained to vote on the proposal.

Since his association's decision to give Chunky Sunday a home for one weekend a month, Fisher said he has received several calls from residents who are against the idea. He said 75 to 100 residents attended the association's meeting when the vote was taken.

"It was unanimous from the people who stayed through the meeting when the vote was taken," he said.

Pinellas Point resident Matthew Gasper, who did not remain to vote on the proposal, says he has distributed more than 200 fliers addressing the subject and asking residents to give city officials their opinion.

On Friday, Fisher declined to discuss his neighborhood association's conditions for the park's use. He has called an emergency association meeting for 7 p.m. Monday to discuss the matter.

As a result of a proposal developed last week, the happenings will be at Bartlett Park on the fourth and fifth Sundays of each month, Campbell Park on the first and second Sundays and Maximo on the third Sunday. Friday, however, Jamaican Funk spokesman Gregory Ford said the group has planned a party at Maximo for the fourth Sunday in May, Memorial Day weekend.

He said his group wants Maximo, with its beach and picnic facilities, for the holiday weekend.

"We know that everybody goes to the beach," Ford said. "We did it last year. Even before we proposed the rotation schedule, we had this in mind."

Some people already are aware of the Memorial Day party through word-of-mouth, Ford said, adding that his organization also will send out fliers to publicize the event.

If the proposal to rotate the happenings to Maximo on the third Sunday of the month is approved soon, the Memorial Day event could mean that Maximo will host the parties two weekends in a row.

Meanwhile, they continue at Bartlett Park. When they are moved around, Ford said the change in venue will be announced with fliers.

"We are also going to ask that the city try and help with that cost," he said.

Jamaican Funk, which describes itself as a promotion group, also holds parties at a lounge on Ninth Street and 12th Avenue S and has held other functions at the National Guard Armory and at the headquarters of the St. Petersburg International Folk Fair Society.

Chunky Sundays offer residents a chance to relax, Ford said.

"It is a chance to meet people, socialize," he said. "As far as the teenage aspect, it gives them something to do at least one day a week."

Children from as young as 10 and adults up to about 35 attend the events, he added.

Addressing the complaints of neighbors, Ford said members of Jamaican Funk and volunteers patrol the large crowds to keep order.

"The city has given us these orange-colored vests. . . . If there are people that are drinking, or swerving, playing their music too loud, we instruct them that it is not tolerated and that they are messing things up for us," he said.

"This is something we are doing for our community. Whenever you have a crowd like that everyone is not perfect."

What concerns Pinellas Point neighborhood president Fisher most, however, is traffic and the congestion it will cause around Maximo.

"The park has not in the past shown the capacity to handle a high volume of traffic," he said. "That is still my concern. There is one way in and out. The other thing that concerns me, personally, is that we are effectively shutting down a man's business one day a month, because if people cannot get into O'Neil's (Marina) he is out of business."

The park also borders Eckerd College, noted Fisher.

"At this time of year, they are coming up on finals and the amount of commotion, revelry in the park could either be a distraction or deterrent to study."

Fisher said he may discuss his concerns with neighborhood presidents from Campbell Park, Bartlett Park, Harbordale and Tropical Shores this weekend before tomorrow's meeting at City Hall Annex.

"I am going to hear what my co-presidents are concerned with," he said. "We are not trying to limit the young people from gathering. It is not to try to limit them from going to a park, it is just trying to make sense of some proposals and trying to come up with some solutions."

Meanwhile, Gasper is hoping residents will express their opinions.

"I've distributed an informational flier that is non-judgmental and only to be used for information purposes and not to be construed to be falling on one side of the fence or other," he said.

"I am only asking that people call the city officials and voice their opinions, particularly the residents of Pinellas Point. This should not be construed as a race issue in any shape or form and it is only for the quality of life we have all come to expect living in this area. Everybody is entitled to use the park," he added. "My gripe is not so much with the group, it is the discretionary enforcement of law."

Gordon, the police major, disagrees with those who believe the law is not being enforced at the Sunday gatherings.

"I think sometimes when people really don't know, they go by rumor and innuendos and they let that control their perceptions and emotions," he said.

"They want to define the group by the exceptions and I don't think that anyone wants to be defined by the exception," Gordon added. "It appears that people sometimes want to define enforcement based on the strict letter of the law until they are on the other side of the enforcement. . . . You can go to almost any park on Sunday and someone will be breaking the law. This is not just germane to Bartlett Park and Chunky Sunday."