A shortage of vendors, and competing events, have forced the cancellation of the 29th annual Carrabelle Riverfront Festival, originally slated to occur the weekend of April 26-27, along Carrabelle Harbor in the downtown.
“This is due to unforeseen circumstances and external competing events,” reads an announcement by the festival, which is headed up by Steve Allen, under the auspices of Carrabelle Cares.
Allen was away on business in New York, so his mom, Tamara, who heads Carrabelle Cares, delivered the bad news to city commissioners.
She said that as the festival neared it had only attracted eight vendors, and that after a spirited effort by Tourist Development Council Director John Solomon, including an email blast and a video created by Royce Rolstad to help attract participation, the festival still had only 10 vendors.
“We had 120 last year including non-profits,” said Steve Allen Monday. “Even 20 doesn’t get me past Harry’s. I have to have a long stretch. That’s what it takes to fill that street.”
Tamara Allen said the small number of vendors contrasted to more than 80 the festival had last year at this time.
Steve Allen said that while the TDC had promised $5,000 for promotions for a three-day festival, and there was some money left from last year, more was needed and just a few vendors would not be enough.
Steve Allen said the Forgotten Coast Cruisers car show cancelled earlier this year from a lack of participation, in large part due to the impact of Hurricane Michael. “Likewise, some of our vendors may have been impacted by the 2018 storm,” he said. We hope they recover and are able to continue sharing their talents and wares with the region.
In addition, a larger event in Tallahassee was permanently rescheduled for the fourth weekend in April, further crimping participation, he said.
“It’s a real predicament because it’s the vendors fees that come in that gives us money to run the festival,” Tamara Allen said. “We even thought of reducing the fee (for those from the )hurricane area but if there’s no trailer there, there’s not a lot of options going on there.
“From a practical point of view is it better to disappoint a lot of people who would come for it?” she asked. “Unless we come up with miracle funding it would be great with a musical festival but with a few vendors.”
Mayor Brenda La Paz and her colleagues said they were dispappointed in the cancellation, but there was little alternatives. “We could make the festival smaller, move it all up where the band is and pavilion, and close the boat ramp,” she said, but there was little enthusiasm for that.
“The comments (we got) were if you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all,” said Tamara Allen.
“ I hate to here this, but I don’t have a rabbit to pull out of a hat,” said Tony Millender.
Steve Allen said talks are continuing with local businessmen about how to reschedule, perhaps later this year.
“The Carrabelle community invites you to visit our community that weekend as there will be many activities and happenings in Franklin County. We are open for business and our shops, galleries, restaurants and tourist attractions are fully operational and open for our guests from far and wide,” he said.
“Every attempt was made by the festival leadership to resolve the shortfall, but unfortunately, it remains clear that forces beyond our control made the shortfall too difficult to overcome,” he said.
“Decisions about the festival's future have not been determined at this time. At the very least, future festivals will have to be moved from the fourth weekend in April to another date that does not compete with our friends and neighbors in the region,” Steve Allen said.