County supports July festival despite site debate
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A request from the Cotulla Main Street Program that the La Salle County government help fund the annual Independence Day festival in July was granted by commissioners last week, although discussions are expected to continue over a venue for the event.
Commissioners agreed unanimously on Monday, March 27, to contribute $50,000 for the festival whose total expenses are pegged to exceed $125,000.
Cotulla Main Street Program Manager Karina Sauceda addressed the court Monday with the request but said details of the festival have yet to be decided, including a roster of entertainers.
Also up for debate and still unresolved Monday was the location for the Independence Day festival, which was held at the La Salle County Fairgrounds last year and may return to downtown Cotulla this year.
According to Pct. 1 Commissioner Noel Niavez, however, a rotation of venues had been agreed in the past, with the festival site alternating between Veterans Park, Martinez Park, and the county fairgrounds.
The festival is scheduled for Saturday, July 1, according to the Main Street Program manager, as Independence Day itself falls on a Tuesday this year.
“In previous years, it was held at the fairgrounds,” Sauceda told the court. “We plan to bring it back to downtown Cotulla.” She added that the principal purpose of the Main Street Program is to generate tourist traffic and invigorate economic activity in the downtown area, specifically the Cotulla Historic District.
Sauceda said event organizers are examining options for downtown activities, taking traffic and fireworks safety into consideration.
“Remember we were going to do it one year here and next year there,” Comm. Niavez said. “There was a concern about the fireworks.”
“We are working with the fire department on that,” Sauceda said, adding later that while the festival itself may be held downtown, a fireworks display could be held elsewhere and may be held on July 4.
“Was this discussed prior to this administration?” County Judge Leodoro Martinez III asked. “This is the first time I’ve ever heard about any agreement like that or anything.”
“I know we had it at the fairgrounds,” Pct. 4 Comm. Raul Ayala said.
“And we had it at the park complex,” Comm. Niavez said. “Go back and look it up in the minutes.”
“I’m not going to follow something that was passed under a previous administration,” the county judge said.
“I want to have it downtown,” Comm. Ayala said.
“It’s going to depend which way the wind is blowing for the fire crackers,” Comm. Niavez said.
La Salle County Fire Rescue Chief Daniel Mendez indicated he shares the city’s concern over firework safety in the downtown area, telling commissioners on Monday that he believes consideration be given to the proximity of historic buildings.
“In a previous year, at the courthouse, embers burned the roof,” the fire chief said. “We can have personnel on top of the courthouse. This is a better area than Front Street.
“We can flood the roof [of the courthouse], make sure it’s wet,” Mendez said. “It should also be considered having the fireworks show itself at the fairgrounds.”
“Last year, the fireworks show [at the fairgrounds] was some distance from the pavilion, and it still caught on fire,” Sauceda said. She added that organizers are considering a drum show as an alternative to pyrotechnics.
La Salle Undersheriff Rene Sobrevilla also indicated a downtown festival drawing a large crowd of pedestrians could be fraught with difficulty, notably in the event of law enforcement attempting to stop smugglers.
“The big safety concern is illegal activity,” Sobrevilla said. “We are seeing more pursuits, and just this past Thursday we had one come right through town at a hundred miles per hour.”
The motion to contribute county funds for the event was made by Comm. Jack Alba and seconded by Comm. Ayala.