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City council approves new Riverfest host

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For the first time since 1997, The Bandera Riverfest will be organized by the Bandera County 4-H Shotgun Team instead of the Bandera Business Association (BBA), a decision cemented in April 19’s meeting of the Bandera City Council with a 3-1 vote.

Under BBA’s plan, the city would receive 12 percent of the proceeds, and the event would not feature a car show, BBQ cookoff or regatta. Under the Shotgun Team’s plan, the city would receive 50 percent of the proceeds, and the event would feature a BBQ cook-off, car show and regatta.

Before the final decision by the council, representatives from both the BBA and Shotgun Team presented proposed plans for the 2022 Riverfest, which is scheduled for June 25.

First up was BBA Cindy Beckham, who said there was a conflict with another application for the use of Bandera City Park on the same day and event name as theirs. Beckham said one of their main events was the Riverfest and this year would be their 25th anniversary.

Riverfest, she added, was the BBA’s primary fundraiser for the Cowboys on Main, which typically costs $20,000 per year to function.

Per Beckham, all of the communication between the BBA and the city has been ongoing since February 11, and she offered to share a paper trail of dates and times to the council to verify their application history and status for this year’s event.

“I am particularly interested in the details of your event,” said Mayor Pro Tem Rebeca Gibson.

“Yes, let’s just get on with that.” said Mayor Suzanne Schauman.

Beckham proceeded with the specifics of the event, saying their intention was to work together with the city to make a great party in the park. Family fun and ease of mobility would be the theme, with full access of both gates to the entire park. Attractions would include food vendors, arts and crafts vendors, live music and children’s games and activities.

In contrast from past years, there would be no regatta due to the low river, and there would be no BBQ trailers or car show entries. They did express interest in a vehicle show from the Jeep club.

Under Beckham’s proposal, the BBA would pay for security and man both gates with the help of the Chamber of Commerce and their ambassadors. Twelve percent of the proceeds would go to the city.

Vickie Browning of the Bandera County 4-H Shotgun Team presented her plan for their Riverfest event. In attendance with her were some of the team’s children and leaders.

Beckham said in a press release that Browning is a former BBA board member and resigned from that position on March 30, 2022. The release also said she had led the BBQ cook off portion of Riverfest in years past.

Browning proposed to bring back the BBQ cook-off, the car show, the regatta and all the vendors, though they could not execute the music. She added the Lions Club will be helping and that she already has many volunteers waiting to sign up.

“If there is a problem using the name, then we can change it.” said Browning, who then proposed to split the vendor fees and the gate fees with the city. “We want a partnership, 50/50 split.”

Browning suggested the city supply the security and the gate keepers so they have a record of money collected. She requested BBQ participants have access to overnight camping the night before the event, then be out of the park by noon the day after.

Browning stressed the Shotgun Team needs funds to upgrade their equipment so the kids can be competitive.

“Ninety percent of these kids go on to college and shoot for the college teams, and they do well. We buy the ammo, we loan them guns, we help them with the tournaments. These kids are awesome. They practice 4 days a week and they’re committed,” she said.

Councilwoman Toni Kunz expressed concern about the BBQ cook-off participant’s use of the park outside the one-day event, citing a loss of funds to the city. She also said participants don’t necessarily always follow the rules and guidelines of the park.

Kunz asked Browning if she would consider using the portion of the area by the frisbee golf, sharing the park or picking a different weekend.

“I love providing a benefit for the Shotgun Team, but I don’t know why we have to compete with Riverfest.” said Kunz.

Browning responded, “We used to have big crowds come to Bandera for Riverfest. Huge crowds. And that’s what we’d like to see again. “I’m not saying the Shotgun Team take over every year; just for this year.”

Councilman Jerry Russe motioned to approve the Shotgun Team to use the city park for Riverfest 2022, and Gibson seconded the motion.

“One of the glaring differences between the two proposals is that the 4-H event is really family-focused,” said Gibson. “In the past few years, there has been a tremendous amount of turbulence with the BBA, and withholding the Riverfest, and how that has gone down with previous administrators. Then it left City Park, then there wasn’t an event in 2020. I hope to see the Riverfest be the amazing event it has been in the past.”

“I see things a little differently than Rebeca,” said Kunz, who suggested Browning caused the turbulence resulting in kneejerk decisions instigated by her in the past. “It was her instigation to move it to Pioneer. It was hers to go to Twin Elm.”

Kunz said although she supports the Shotgun Team, she was concerned their proposal was an overnight event, that the city doesn’t allow camping in the middle of summer and that it was peak season.

Kunz argued BBA’s event would be a kid-friendly music festival kept to a one-day event with proceeds supporting the Cowboys on Main.

“I don’t know why we can’t have the two events at one time, why we have to pick one over the other. I’m telling you, you’re rewarding the wrong behavior if you only do it to the one and not the both of them,” said Kunz.

Russe backed his motion: “The 4-H Shotgun Team is one of the few things we have going on in our town for our kids rather than having them sit in front of their video screens. They’re taught sportsmanship, integrity, good morals. This money goes towards the kids for equipment and scholarships. I fully support them. I’d be very disappointed if we weren’t able to support this.”

Kunz responded, “Why can’t we figure out how to support them both? They can share the park within the realm of the park rules and not have overnight camping.”

Gibson said the clout of the BBQ cookoff was substantial and should be taken into account.

The council voted 3-1 in favor of the Bandera County 4-H Shotgun Team using City Park on June 24-26. Russe, Gibson, Councilwoman Christine Morse were in favor, and Kunz opposed. Councilwoman Darcy Hasty was not present.

Beckham, who said in a press release the council’s decision “was no less than shocking” told the Bulletin that the BBA, which has been a nonprofit since 2000, expects increased expenditures for Cowboys to near $30,000 in the future and the Riverfest was the primary fundraiser for that event.

“If we are the Cowboy Capitol of the World why shouldn’t we support our Cowboys on Main?” she said.

In past years, the BBA has also organized and supported Cowboys on Main, Market Days at the Courthouse, The National Day of the American Cowboy, Christmas Shoppers Jubilee and the Christmas Parade on Main Street.