Mayfest returns with traditional setup after two years

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    Funnel cake, games and other carnival attractions are set to return to Trinity Park after a two-year absence.

    After being canceled last year because of concerns about the spread of the H1N1 virus, Fort Worth’s Mayfest is back thanks to support from the community, said Shannon Baumgardner, marketing manager for Mayfest, Inc. The festival will return this year after being shut down three hours before it was set to begin a year ago.

    Baumgardner said attendees won’t notice any differences compared to past years.

    “We are being very, very careful with our expenses, but at the same time, Mayfest is going to be as good, and as grand and as wonderful as the Fort Worth community has come to expect,” Baumgardner said.

    Mallory Curtice, a sophomore pre-business major, said she was going to volunteer at the event last year but then got an e-mail notifying her about the cancellation. She said she may volunteer this year if her schedule allows it.
    “The girl I was going to volunteer with had gone in previous years, and she said it was a lot of fun,” Curtice said.

    A statement from the City of Fort Worth posted on the Mayfest Web site last April noted that “because of the current public health crisis and the emergency and disaster declarations by the federal and state governments, large outdoor public gatherings have been deemed unsafe.”

    The unexpected closure resulted in a nearly $500,000 loss for the festival, Baumgardner said. Jeffrey Brown, a junior film-TV-digital media major, said the paranoia surrounding H1N1 was unwarranted.
    “I think it was a little much (to cancel the event), but just to make sure everyone’s safe, it probably wasn’t a bad idea to cancel it,” Brown said.

    Adelaide Leavens, executive director of Streams and Valleys Inc., said the festival’s cancellation not only affected individuals who came into town to attend the four-day event on the Trinity River, but also nonprofit organizations that Mayfest benefits. Streams and Valleys Inc., an original founder of Mayfest, uses its profits to help improve and beautify the Trinity River.

    “For us to lose that much funding in one year put a significant dent into our capabilities of returning that money back to the river for improvement,” Leavens said.

    Baumgardner said that an emergency reserve fund and a gracious community have allowed the near-dead festival to rise from the ashes. After a fundraising concert in July headlined by Reckless Kelly failed to draw a large crowd because of the extreme Texas heat, Mayfest was even further in the hole, Baumgardner said. Donations took off after an idea from an e-mail from a former patron was adopted urging community members to become one of 1,000 people to donate $100 in 100 days, she said.

    Companies and foundations also stepped up to get Mayfest back and running, Baumgardner said. Normally at this time of the year, Mayfest would have earned about $50,000 or less in donations and grants, but this year it has gained close to $150,000, she said.

    The festival, scheduled to run from April 29 through May 2, spans 33 acres along the Trinity River and features seven different stages for entertainment, including a heavy dose of North Texas music, Baumgardner said. Although contracts have not been finalized for specific attractions, Baumgardner said she is confident that the popular frisbee dog show will be back, along with a new haunted house.

    Those interested in donating to Mayfest or looking for more information can call 817-332-1055 or visit Mayfest.org.

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