After suffering bad weather, sparse attendance and complaints from some merchants during the first two events, PantegoFest 2014 is making some big changes.First, taking a gamble on better weather, the three-day festival of music, arts, crafts and food has been moved up a weekend earlier, to Sept. 26-28.“Someone even consulted the Farmers’ Almanac and said, yes, that looks like a good weekend,” said April Coltharp, an event planner contracted by the city to organize the festival makeover.Also new — admission will be free, and a Terlingua-qualifier chili cook-off, benefiting the Pantego Lions Club, has been added to the repertoire.And this time the town won’t shut down a section of Park Row Drive for the activities, which instead will be concentrated in the parking lot of the Park Row West shopping center, 2229 W. Park Row Drive. Although blocking off traffic originally seemed like good way to foster a more festivallike atmosphere, it ended up frustrating some Park Row businesses.“One of the purposes of the festival is to show people what businesses have to offer,” Coltharp said. “But with the street shut down, it was hard to show what businesses were available in that area.”The town took its first step toward its revamp by turning over the planning and managing to Coltharp and her business, Flair Events, said City Manager Matthew Fielder.“In the past, the city staff organized it,” Fielder said. “We thought it would be better to have someone with special expertise come in. It’s just not what we do.”PantegoFest is still built around a wide variety of live music performances on the stage, starting with a stage-opening ceremony at 6 p.m. Friday. The headline acts are LeFreak on that Friday night and Incognito Saturday night, and Me and My Monkey closes the festival with a 4:30 p.m. Sunday performance.Early risers can participate in a mile fun run or a 5K race Saturday.Other activities include a pie cook-off followed by a pie-eating contest, and a pet parade along with a simultaneous performance of veterinarian Jim Turner, owner of nearby Farrell Animal Hospital, along with his band, Uptown Drifters, Coltharp said.She said the festival attracted about 30 vendors last year, and she’s working to expand that to 50 to 75 vendors. “We’re getting there,” she said.The inaugural PantegoFest was marred by chilly temperatures and light rain, said Councilman Don Surratt. “The second year, we had rain that moved in at midday and rained out our Saturday night.” With the schedule change, he said, “We hoped we could outrun the rain.”Coltharp said the town needs a healthy festival to serve its overriding purpose — “to bring an identity to Pantego,” she said. “A lot of people don’t even realize it when they’re driving through Pantego. They just think they’re in another section of Arlington.”Applications for vendors are available at www.pantegofest.com, which also has a schedule of events and volunteer opportunities.
Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641 Twitter: @Kaddmann