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Elk Grove Citizen

Western Festival Canceled

May 10, 2024 10:42AM ● By Matthew Malone

Pictured is a scene from the most recent Western Festival in 2019. The festival has been on hiatus since then because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The planned 2024 return was canceled last month when the Community Services District withdrew its authorization. File photo by Steve Crowley

ELK GROVE, CA (MPG) - After the Western Festival’s recent cancellation, community members voiced anger and disappointment at the May 1 meeting of the Cosumnes Community Services District (CSD) board of directors.
The festival was scheduled to return for the first time since 2019 on May 4 and 5. However, the Community Services District revoked authorization less than two weeks before the event, citing the organizers’ failure to get the proper permits and licenses in time.
Lynden King, the festival board’s vice-president, spoke first during public comment.
“The Western Festival board was late getting some of the paperwork finished. We know that but we were working on it with the fire department to get all the final paperwork finished and it hurts the whole community to cancel the event this year,” King said, citing various attractions that had been planned.
“We are working with the CSD very closely, and with their support, we will put on a Western Festival in 2025 in the Elk Grove Regional Park,” he said. “We have a positive outlook and are looking forward to having a great event in the future.
“I’ve been told that the board makes policy and the administration makes the decisions. I hope in the future, you would as a board participate a little bit more in some of the very important decisions, especially canceling a major event, like the Western Festival.”
The festival was last celebrated in 2019, when the long-standing tradition featured its signature parade and attractions that included a barbecue contest. In the years after, it was canceled, due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
Hopes for a return in 2024 came to an end last month. In a letter obtained by the Citizen, Community Services District General Manager Phil Lewis said the district was canceling its agreement with the festival board because of missed deadlines for various documents and the board had received “multiple extensions.” 
The letter, dated April 22, highlighted a required certificate of insurance, with a deadline of April 5.
“Unfortunately, your organization has failed to provide the required documents for this event. Thus, leaving no alternative but to terminate the agreement,” the Community Services District letter read.
At the May 1 meeting, Elk Grove resident Brian Coulson told the Community Services District board that he didn’t “know how you guys can think that something like this could just disappear.” He said that the district should have done more to ensure the festival happened.
Resident Randy Bekker encouraged Community Services District staff to look into how they can do better next year.
A woman who didn’t identify herself said she had delayed a move out of state so her son could attend the festival.
Community Services District board President Jim Luttrell read a prepared statement on the district’s decision, sometimes over interruptions from audience members. He said the missing documents created a public-safety risk.
“The Western Festival board had been aware of the deadlines for submitting required documents as far back as last summer. … We support the organizations through the process, including regular communication, several extensions and application for permits. We kept an open line of communication and assigned a dedicated representative to attend meetings and help with paperwork. Despite our collective efforts, the flexibility extended, we did not receive permits and licenses and insurance in time. With only two weeks remaining until the event, proceeding without the required documents would have compromised public safety and created a public liability risk,” Luttrell read. He added that Community Services District is “committed to supporting the Western Festival and events like the Western Festival.”
Luttrell said the district had assigned three more staff members to work with the festival next year. He continued, speaking on his own behalf.
“From my heart, I mean, I’ve been an Elk Grove citizen for a long time,” Luttrell said. “We’re going to make it work next year. It just happened too late this year. I’m sorry.”