McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

July 23, 2013

Old Town Association misses $18,000 request, but gets city assistance for Wild West Festival

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — Old Town Association President Eddie Gray didn’t lasso as much in city funds as he’d hoped to help with the group’s upcoming Wild West Festival in October — but he didn’t come up with an empty loop either.

City councilors and McAlester Mayor Steve Harrison voted unanimously during the council meeting held at City Hall Tuesday night to allocate some city funds toward the festival, although not in the amount Gray had sought.

Gray had asked for $18,000.

Instead, on a motion by Ward 3 Councilor Travis Read, the council voted to allocate $6,000 toward helping with the event. The measure also included a provision that the city council be provided with a report of expenditures related to the event by January 2014..

In addition, the council voted to spend approximately $2,600 for tents for the event — but with the provision that the city is purchasing the tents and will own them, and that the Old Town Association as well as other groups can use the tents for events in McAlester.

Several city councilors had balked at the request for the city to allocate $18,000 in city funds — especially after Gray provided them with information showing the Old Town Association’s entire budget for last year’s festival had been $9,000.

Mayor Harrison said he hadn’t been aware the city was being asked to fund the entire festival this year. Other councilors questioned why the city was being asked to fund twice as many dollars for this year’s event than had been spent on the entire festival last year.

Gray said that’s because the Old Town Association’s goal is to increase tourism in McAlester and see the festival grow into a two-day event.

The Wild West Festival had previously been known as the Old Town Festival. The Old Town Association, the group that organizes the event, decided on the name change last year and put more of an emphasis on the area’s western heritage.

Gray’s request for city funding had originally been made during the council’s June 11 meeting, when he had asked for $18,000 in city funds to help with the event.

During that meeting, the item had been placed on the city council’s consent agenda, which meant it could have been passed automatically, along with other consent agenda items by a single vote, unless some of the city councilors raised concerns or had questions.

When they did, after noting it was a request for a new item in the city budget, Gray agreed to return with more information — the information provided for the Tuesday night meeting.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com

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