ANTIOCH -- A popular, family-friendly carnival held by a church on Halloween night will stay put, despite a city offer to relocate it to the waterfront.
The City Council made an offer this week to Grace Bible Fellowship to move its Holy Eve Community Carnival to the city's new boat launch ramp area -- agreeing to waive up to $500 in city costs to make the event happen.
The offer came after city leaders denied a request from the church to block a portion of Sunset Drive Halloween night for the carnival.
"We definitely appreciate the offer, but the problem is that it's three weeks before the event," said the Rev. Kirkland Smith, Grace Bible Fellowship's pastor.
Organizers have marketed the event to variety of different groups since January, so moving it two miles away now would make it difficult and create confusion, he said.
"It's counterproductive to take that time at this point to try pull all our resources in one direction," Smith said.
After holding the carnival at Somersville Towne Center the past two years and the fairgrounds the year before that, Grace Bible looked to again hold the event at the church.
In September, Grace Bible members asked the city for permission to close a portion of the two-lane road. City staff denied the request, citing traffic congestion and liability issues.
Church members appealed the decision, and asked the council to consider the matter Tuesday night as an urgency item.
Grace Bible member Cherice Gilliam, acting as spokeswoman for the Holy Eve carnival committee, told the council that businesses on Sunset were OK with the closure and there is little traffic in the late afternoon and early evening hours.
Church members, including some off-duty police officers, would handle traffic control, she said.
All council members agreed that the free carnival -- which draws 15,000 to 20,000 people because of its combination of fun attractions such as go-carts, carnival rides and prizes, along with not having to worry about safety -- is a great community event.
"I think everyone here agrees it's a great event. It's just at the wrong spot," City Manager Jim Jakel said.
After an hour of deliberation, the council split 2-2 on closing off Sunset. Mayor Pro Tem Wade Harper and Councilwoman Mary Rocha were for the closure; Mayor Jim Davis and Councilman Gary Agopian against.
Councilman Brian Kalinowski was absent.
The first six years of the carnival were at the church and without a blocked-off parking lot, which leads Smith to say the event will run smoothly.
"We're going to utilize the space we have and make the most of it," Smith said. "We're OK. This event is for the community, so whatever the location, we're going to make it work."
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.