Wednesday, June 26, 2013

TOP STORY >> FestiVille to return next year

Leader staff writer

Even though the crowd was sparse, vendors lost money and an unexpected Saturday afternoon thunderstorm caused most of the Jacksonville FestiVille at Dupree Park to shut down, the parks and recreation department met with the mayor and others Tuesday to start planning next year’s event.

The festival was a first-time effort from the parks and recreation department, which picked up the idea after the chamber decided to stop sponsoring the city’s popular Wing Ding Festival because of the long hours and expense.

Very few people visited the festival Friday afternoon, but the headline entertainment, Luke Williams from Beebe, drew a good crowd, according to Mayor Gary Fletcher, who invited Williams to play again next year.

“The crowd could have been bigger, but it was more than the entertainment at the last couple of Wing Ding (festivals) brought in,” the mayor said.

He admitted the weather was not ideal for the festival, going from very hot on Friday to heavy rain, lightning and thunder on Saturday. “But it was all set up for people to have a good time,” Fletcher said, adding that the parks and recreation department, along with a number of volunteers, “poured their hearts into it.”

Kevin House, the parks and recreation director, said he was proud of the work his staff did on the festival. “There’s a lot of behind the scenes work as well as what people saw out there at the festival.”

He squashed the rumor that parks and recreation employees were making overtime pay of $20 an hour working the festival. “We had some overtime just as we would for a major tournament. But most of the workers had adjusted their schedules or were salary workers or volunteers, so they were not getting paid extra,” he said.

Overall, House called the effort a success. “We were trying to do something for the community and I think we succeeded.” He also admitted that he and his staff learned a lot from their first effort.

Very few of the dozen or so vendors at the festival made any money. One did manage to eke out $38, while another didn’t sell much, but did keep running into old friends and had plenty of time to reminisce because of the lack of visitors.

Even though the Saturday afternoon storm caused nearly all the vendors to pack it in, once the sun broke back out so did the volleyball tournament and a number of bands. But Saturday night’s main attraction, the Buffalo Wild Wings karaoke finals, was cancelled.