The Grinch and Mr. and Mrs. Claus visited Johnstown’s Central Park over the weekend, bringing holiday cheer and a bit of controversy with them.
On Saturday, an individual dressed as the Grinch attended the inaugural city of Johnstown Christmas Market – a gathering officially sponsored by the municipality – where he spent time interacting with children in attendance.
One of the organizers approached the man, asking if he had the proper child protection clearance, according to John Dubnansky, Johnstown’s economic development director.
“If the city wasn’t having an official event, then there’s really no issue,” Dubnansky said.
“Anyone can be dressed up as whatever they want, go there, and interact with the public however they want to interact with them. There’s nothing legally wrong with that. There’s no issue with us. You don’t have to do a permit fee. There’s nothing associated with that.
“But because it was an actual city event going on – the winter market on Saturday – that gentleman needed to at least clear with us, provide us his name and show us information that he had his clearances in place because he was interacting with children. But that never happened. City staff approached him, asking him for his name and if he had his clearances, and he gave his name and said ‘yes.’ That was it. They let him go. He stayed for the rest of the night and then ultimately left. There’s really no issue there in regards to anything.”
Dubnansky said the city representative took the individual at his word, concerning the clearance.
The person who played the Grinch met city officials on Monday to discuss the matter.
A comment, purportedly from the person dressed as the Grinch, appeared on Facebook.
In it, the individual confirmed having a meeting at City Hall.
The person said he was told to file for child clearances under the state’s Act 33, provide a copy of his driver’s license to the city, and inform officials when he plans to be in town as the Grinch.
The message stated that when the steps are taken, there “will no longer be a issue of the Grinch aka me in Central Park.”
Then, on Sunday, a man and woman, dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Claus, spent time meeting visitors in the park.
Reports have circulated on social media that the couple was approached and told they needed a $300 permit.
A post was made on Facebook in which an individual said City Hall and City Council “required” a $300 “vendor/entertainer” permit, which was further described as “a bit steep.”
According to Dubnansky, to his knowledge, “no city official, no one associated with the city had any contact with Mr. and Mrs. Claus on Sunday evening at the park.”
Dubnansky said “a permit was not required for them to be in the park doing what they were doing, so there was no issue.”
No report has been made to City Hall about the alleged incident, according to Dubnansky.
“Social media has kind of run wild with this, telling people to boycott downtown and all that kind of nonsense,” Dubnansky said. “It’s just people reacting off of limited information at best.”
City Councilwoman Marie Mock responded to the social media reaction with a Facebook statement:
“There are some posts going around on several Facebook sites and personal pages, about people not being allowed to be dressed up in holiday characters while visiting Central Park in Johnstown during the holiday season. Before there’s a stampede running to city hall with pitchforks and torches, I’ve already sent several emails to get to the bottom of this. There has to be some type of misunderstanding going on. I for one am NOT happy this is occurring. There is no way the City can prevent someone from walking around a public park dressed up in costume, unless there’s some archaic ordinance on the books. This is not right!!! A lot of work went into promoting the City and especially Central Park during Christmas. This will be made right. I promise!!”