West Fest parade

A moment from the Elk Grove Western Festival's parade in 2019 when the festival was last held. 

The public will have to wait at least another year until they can enjoy Elk Grove’s 66-year-old salute to its frontier days.

Organizers told the Citizen this week they decided to call off the Elk Grove Western Festival, which was to be held at Elk Grove Regional Park on May 6-7. Back in January, they hoped to bring back the festival after three years of cancellations, but financial, logistical, and security issues prompted them to postpone the event until May 2024.

“It’s heartbreaking that we’re going to postpone the event another year because of circumstances,” board member Lynden King told the Citizen. “We already had food and craft vendors signed up, and we were getting ready to put out applications for the parade.”

This celebration typically drew tens of thousands of visitors to Elk Grove Regional Park for a weekend fair. As per tradition, the festival kicks off with a parade through Old Town Elk Grove.  

The Western Festival has not been held since 2019. Festival board members canceled the 2020 and 2021 festivals, due to COVID-related county restrictions on large public gatherings. Logistical problems caused them to nix last year’s festival.

This winter, the board experienced financial and logistical challenges when they tried to revive the festival. King said they were unable to secure sponsorships and file their city paperwork in time. He noted that the Western Festival can cost upward of $80,000 to produce.

Organizers also did not obtain an Event Sponsorship Grant from the city of Elk Grove for the 2022-23 fiscal year. The application deadline for the current year’s grants passed in February 2022 when the organizers were not planning to bring back the festival that year.

For the current year, the city awarded $75,000 worth of sponsorship grants to events such as the Strauss Festival of Elk Grove, the Elk Grove Veterans Day Parade, and Franklin High School’s annual Invitational Band Review.

King mentioned that the festival board seeks volunteers to fill board vacancies in positions such as Craft Vendors, Sponsorship, and Logistics.

“We do need some more board members to keep this thing moving,” he said.

In a joint statement to the press, Elk Grove city and Cosumnes Community Services District (CSD) staff explained that the festival’s organizers did not meet the permit deadlines for street closures and the use of Elk Grove Regional Park.

They also noted that the 2023 festival’s timing conflicted with the Elk Grove police staff’s plans to attend state and national ceremonies that memorialize fallen police officers.

Elk Grove police officers were invited to honor Elk Grove Officer Ty Lenehan who died in the line of duty in January 2022. His name will be enshrined at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., Elk Grove police spokesperson Sgt. Jason Jimenez said. There will also be a May 7 vigil for fallen officers at the California Peace Officers’ Memorial in Sacramento.

“All EGPD staff are being encouraged to attend those events in recognition of the ultimate sacrifice Officer Lenehan made in service to this community,” the city-CSD joint statement read.

The city and CSD staff added that due to this special occasion, the Elk Grove police would’ve lacked the resources to provide extra patrol duty and overtime services for the Western Festival. They also mentioned that neighboring law enforcement agencies would be unable to offer services to the festival.

“However, our regular public safety services for the city of Elk Grove will not be interrupted as the safety of the community remains our number one priority,” the joint statement said.

King told the Citizen that his fellow festival board members support the police’s plans to honor Lenehan at the memorial events. They are now planning for the 2024 festival.

“We’re getting our budget built back up, and we applied for all of next year’s stuff with the year,” he said.

Readers who are interested in joining the Elk Grove Western Festival board can contact King at skyking.eg@gmail.com They will meet at Denny’s (8707 Elk Grove Blvd.) at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 5.