The Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce has decided to merge Cowboy Homecoming with the Turn-n-Burn Barbecue Cook-off in March 2017.
The decision wasn’t made lightly according to Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Aniol. “While there are many reasons for combining these events, the main reason is for economic purposes. The Chamber is concerned about the current economic outlook for local hotels which directly fund the Hotel Occupancy Tax fund,” said Aniol.
One of the reasons is due to the possible nonfunding or reduction of the Hotel Occupancy Tax funds. With the influx of the oilfield workers in 2012-14, the HOT funds built up rather quickly. In the past, several nonprofit groups received a percentage of the funds. A new grant application process started in 2013 using guidelines from the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association. Applications were submitted by various groups. Some were approved and funded and others were not. To be considered for the HOT funds, the event must “put heads in beds” (guests must stay over at least one night in an area hotel/motel.) “While there is a large amount of money currently in the HOT fund, the income has become less due to current economic conditions. In order to get ahead of these changes, we are looking to work with the City of Pleasanton and cut expenses,” said Aniol.
Last year, the City of Pleasanton gave the Chamber $158,481.93 for both Cowboy Homecoming and Turn-n-Burn. That funding came after the decision from the council voting to override the recommendation of the Hotel Occupancy Tax Grant Committee to not award any funds to the Chamber for Cowboy Homecoming, Turn-n-Burn and the Pleasanton Young Farmer’s Cowboy of the Year Rodeo Festival.
Two of the four members were noncity employees, Tiffany Bedwell and Rusty Garvin, who resigned shortly after the review, but before the recommendation presented to the council.
Councilman Travis Hall Jr. commented at that meeting “Sometimes you have to follow your heart. It’s been quite a battle for me, but I must go back and think of what my father would want to do, after being a part of the first Cowboy Homecoming. As hard as they worked, going to the First National Bank, which was then on Main Street, to borrow money for all of those years. So I congratulate you and your hard work.”
The balance in the HOT account is currently $845,000 according to Pleasanton City Manager Bruce Pearson. Pearson also shared that the decision will be made by the Pleasanton City Council since there is no longer a grant committee.
Another reason is to save operating expense. To lease the park for each event costs the Chamber $2,000. Add in security – a requirement for the city – plus the rental of stages, lighting and sound equipment, it all adds up pretty quickly.
“By combining the traditions of the Cowboy Homecoming Festival including the parade, Homecoming Court and night time entertainment, with the success of the BBQ Cook-off at Turn-n- Burn, we will be able to have a great event while also cutting expenses. We look forward to working with the City of Pleasanton to provide a fun event for local citizens and also driving business for our business members,” said Aniol.
Currently, the Chamber plans to keep the event in the Atascosa River Park. In 2012 the event moved to October to take advantage of cooler weather and to have access to a larger carnival. It was moved to the Atascosa County Showbarn area for 2013 and 2014 then returned to the river park last year.
With this shift of the celebration, there will also be a delay of electing a Cowboy Homecoming Queen. Applications to be a candidate will be available in December, with the election being held in February.
The council should have an answer by sometime in July.