Kellerfest relocates to Fort Worth

Posted Tuesday, Sep. 03, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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One of Keller’s biggest festivals has left town.

But it’s keeping the city’s name.

Kellerfest, a two-day family festival sponsored by the Greater Keller Chamber of Commerce, is moving from Keller Town Center to Texas Motor Speedway, a few miles to the north in Fort Worth.

In fact, it’s no longer in Tarrant County; that part of Fort Worth is in Denton County.

The festival, held in Keller the past nine years, will take place Sept. 27-28. City officials are also upset that the chamber chose to have Kellerfest the same weekend as Rock the Park, a popular city event with live music, athletic contests, arts and crafts, and fireworks.

Mayor Pat McGrail said several council members “were extremely upset.”

“Not only because they are not having the event in Keller, but they are using our name,” he said.

Kathy Young, programs and marketing manager for the chamber of commerce, said that the festival, usually held in May, became too large for Keller Town Center and that chamber staff couldn’t find a suitable place in Keller for the event.

“We tried to keep it in Keller, but it just didn’t come together,” Young said. “We worked hard to find a location within the city.”

Young declined to say how much it costs to have the event at the speedway.

Kellerfest, with live music, carnival rides, and arts and crafts, usually draws more than 20,000 people.

Location woes

An emailed statement from Keller spokeswoman Rachel Reynolds said city staff met with chamber staff in January to discuss this year’s event, including how much help the city would provide with public safety personnel, fencing and signs.

The size of the trees at Town Center was also discussed.

“As the trees in Town Center continue to grow, all of our event organizers are having to adjust their plans to accommodate the growing canopy,” Reynolds said. “When the chamber expressed concerns that their plans to expand the carnival area might be hampered by the trees, the city suggested that Keller High School might work well as an alternative location with its significant open space and parking.”

Young said the Keller High School location didn’t work because of parking issues and legal concerns about having alcoholic beverages.

Reynolds said that months later, after city staffers learned that the high school wouldn’t work, they continued discussions with the chamber about having the event at Keller Sports Park.

That location had availability problems and lacked enough concrete to accommodate carnival rides, Reynolds said.

At that time, city staffers suggested that if city facilities weren’t suitable, the chamber might consider partnering with one of the larger churches in town to use their property and parking lots, Reynolds said.

“That was the last communication our staff received from the chamber,” she said.

Keller officials react

After learning about the new location, McGrail sent a letter to the chamber on behalf of himself and the council expressing disappointment about moving the event out of the city.

“It is particularly discouraging that despite all the opportunities available to communicate with us regarding this year’s event, including the many private discussions organized at your request with each of the council members, news of your selected date and venue came to us through the grapevine rather than directly from you or chamber staff,” according to the letter.

McGrail said he asked the chamber not to use the name Kellerfest in the future if the event isn’t in Keller.

McGrail said another disappointment is that the chamber is having Kellerfest the same day as Rock the Park, held annually the last weekend of September.

“That wasn’t very good planning, to have it the exact same weekend as our function,” he said. “I am extremely disappointed.”

A statement released Aug. 28 by the city echoed McGrail’s thoughts.

“… We wish them success with their event, but we are disappointed to see an event outside the city limits continue to reference the city’s name in its title,” the statement said.

Young said that when Kellerfest was booked at Texas Motor Speedway, chamber staff didn’t know that Rock the Park was the same weekend.

“We tried to make sure nothing was conflicting. We had no idea something like that was going on in Keller,” Young said. “That was a pure, honest mistake. If we had known that, we would have continued to look. We would have never stepped on our partner’s feet.”

Despite the location, Young said, the chamber is trying to keep the event focused on Keller.

“This will raise awareness about what we do have in Keller,” she said. “Instead of making this unfortunate, we’re going to make it a good thing. We’re very excited.”

Susan McFarland, 817-390-7547 Twitter: @susanmcfarland1

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