The permit for Martindale’s popular Float Fest is in limbo following a three-hour hearing that ended with a 3-2 vote from the Guadalupe Commissioners Court to neither approve nor deny it.
This is Float Fest’s sixth annual festival and it’s not the first time the permit has faced trouble getting approved. The permit for last year’s festival was initially denied but Float Fest’s legal team negotiated a settlement with the court to create a maximum of 20,000 guests for last years festival.
This festival is a very notable tourist destination and economic booster to the city. While there is evidence of the positive impact the festival has on the community, it has compiled much controversy and complaints from nearby residents and some city officials.
This year, Float Fest is scheduled for July 19-21 and the expected attendance has skyrocketed compared to previous years, with as many as 25,000 guests expected per day. With the estimated $12.3 million of revenue from last year’s events, some residents feel its outgrown Martindale.
Data collected by AC Traffic Engineering & Data Collection and presented by Director of Operations Rene Arredondo showed attendees come from local areas: New Braunfels, San Antonio, Austin and San Marcos. With so many guests attending, one of the main concerns is traffic.
“What we didn’t realize was the Friday before the event was actually one of the busiest days. We recorded about 3,000 cars on Skull Road between FM 621 and Dupee Road if you add both directions,” Arredondo stated at the meeting.
However, traffic is not the only problem residents have with the festival: drug usage, neighborhood trespassing, water pollution, loud music, unsanitary port-a-potties and public indecency.
Martindale City Council member Mike McClabb is one of those with growing concerns. He said Float Fest was at 12,000 attendees one year, then it went to 30,000, and now it’s at 25,000 per day.
“What’s the maximum level?” McClabb said. “Is it going to go to 100,000?”
Martindale resident David Flint lives down the river from the festival and said the festival doesn’t have residents’ best interests at heart.
“I have no interest in the profitability of a small group of people exploiting our natural resources. It makes no sense,” Flint said. “I’m not against anyone making money. I don’t understand why people who represent the citizens here make us stand here and defend our way of life and values.”
Float Fest attorney Joseph Stallone provided an Economic Impact Study conducted by Angelou Economics and presented it to the Guadalupe Commissioners Court jury. The study highlighted some key statistics from Float Fest 2018 records for the audience. It showed that Float Fest produced $4.2 million in labor income, local employees were paid over 1.1 million in labor income and tri-county region collected $49,500 in sales tax out of Float Fest 2018.
Float Fest founder Marcus Federman presented potential ideas to the court about how he could do things differently this year. The plans include widening gates, trimming nearby trees, offsite parking, widening emergency lanes and developing a new traffic control plan.
In response to concerns about drunken guests wandering about the festival grounds, Federman said they’re going to take more of a hands-on approach this year.
“It’s just like cattle,” Federman said. “You tell them where to go and you don’t let them go anywhere else.”
Although the permit wasn’t approved by the court, it wasn’t denied either.
“We would need a motion to deny the permit, based on a specific item” County Judge Kyle Kutscher stated.
County Commissioner Judy Cope made a motion to deny the permit but the motion lost in a 2-3 vote, leaving the permit in limbo.
More information about Float Fest can be found online.