Parks commission agrees to take on Fat Tire Festival
By Samantha Jones
The Eureka Springs Parks and Recreation Commission spent much of its regular meeting Tuesday, Oct. 15, discussing the Fat Tire Festival.
Parks director Justin Huss said he's been working with the Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission put together a list of sponsors and sponsor packages. Huss said he's already spoken with the Heart of Eureka downtown merchants group, saying they fully support the idea of bringing the festival to downtown Eureka Springs. The flags placed outside participating Heart of Eureka businesses can be changed to reflect the festival, Huss said, during the weekend it happens.
"The concept is those flags can be changed to the Fat Tire logo with the Heart of Eureka to give the town the vibe that we're welcoming and excited to welcome this group," Huss said.
CAPC special events coordinator Tracy Johnson said she's excited to work on the project with the parks commission. Johnson said she's working with the CAPC to get a dedicated budget for the festival in 2020.
"I have a meeting with them next week. I'll be presenting some information so they can make a decision," Johnson said. "This is an economic development tool. I can't say that enough."
Johnson said the Fat Tire Festival is the second oldest mountain biking festival in Arkansas. The opportunity for the city to take the festival under its wing, Johnson said, is a gift to everyone in the community. It's the perfect time for the parks commission and the CAPC to work together, Johnson said, because both commissions have the same goal in mind.
"It is our mission to promote tourism. The parks commission and the CAPC are both very tourism related," Johnson said. "In other parts of the world, both of these groups work together. That's what we're hoping to do with this is work together. The CAPC will hopefully put together the financial backing."
There will be some changes to the festival in 2020, Johnson said, especially when it comes to the location. The festival has historically been held at Lake Leatherwood City Park, Johnson said. She said it will be located in the city limits of Eureka Springs in 2020, particularly in the downtown area.
"The entire festivities will be taking place in the downtown area. We'll be utilizing all our trails: Lake Leatherwood, the Great Passion Play, Black Bass and in-town trails," Johnson said. "There will even be an urban downhill."
The idea is to turn the festival into a spectator event, Johnson said, where mountain bikers can bring their loved ones to enjoy the race and downtown Eureka Springs. Commissioner Ruth Hager said that could be an opportunity for more locals to get involved, too, since the festival will take place in a more central location.
"My goal is to get those riders in town," Johnson said. "This is going to become a spectator sport with elements involving the entire family. I foresee just as many spectators coming to our town to watch the races as there are bikes and that will continue to grow as we add features."
Johnson said it wouldn't make sense for the city to turn down the opportunity to run the festival.
"To refuse something like this would be asinine, because it truly has proven to take care of itself," Johnson said.
She already has some major sponsors lined up, Johnson said, but she can't share specifics until everything is set in stone.
"The sponsorships we have lined up are going to put Eureka on the map in a way we haven't seen before," Johnson said.
Commissioner Scott Bardin said he doesn't mind taking over the festival but has concerns about the financial aspect of it. Bardin asked if the parks commission would be putting money into the festival and Huss said that shouldn't be the case. If the CAPC puts the festival in its budget and all the sponsors come through, Huss said, the festival should become self-sustaining in just a few years.
"Within three or possibly four years, we expect that overage should create a line item that covers that every year," Huss said, "so that money will be sitting there for next year. That's how we expect that to go."
Chairman Bill Featherstone said it's a breath of fresh air to see people planning for the festival a year in advance. In the past, Featherstone said, the festival didn't really come together until the month before it was scheduled to occur.
"You're not looking just to next year's event," Featherstone said. "You're looking years in advance. That's a new way of thinking. We as a commission get the opportunity to assess our involvement and how we're going to play a part in this on an annual basis."
Commissioner Christian Super moved that the parks commission work with the CAPC to take over the Fat Tire Festival and the commission agreed to do so.
The commission's next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19, at The Auditorium.