Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Thomas Garcia
Staff writer 

Rockabilly replacement no go

The event founders are not on board with a placeholder event.


July 12, 2017

Thomas Garcia

Rockabilly on the Route co-producer Ungie Davila reads a letter to the Lodger's Tax Advisory Board Wednesday expressing her and Simon Cantlon's disapproval for a proposed Rockabilly-type event.

An attempt to fill the void left by next year's absence of the annual Rockabilly on the Route event has been halted after event co-producer Ungie Davila called the proposal a 'theft of common law trademarks'.

During Wednesday's Lodger's Tax Advisory Board meeting, an event called Rockin' Route 66 was proposed by City Commissioner Robert Lumpkin and Brian Whitcomb of Hot Pan Productions.

"After discussions with residents (and) tourist and event producers, the consensus was unanimous, we'd be crazy to let this event go away, even for a year," Lumpkin said.

Whitcomb and Lumpkin were requesting $25,000 from the Lodger's Tax to promote and put on the event they stated would be a place holder until Rockabilly returned.

Rockabilly's co-producers Simon Cantlon and Davila announced in 2016 that they were going to take a year off following this year's event. Cantlon said the two needed to take some time off from the event to pursue other projects.

Lumpkin said he was approached by several individuals about the need to continue the event after the festival had ended. He said he began speaking with Davila and Cantlon about the possibility of holding an event similar to Rockabilly during their absence. Dialog was started with Whitcomb to produce the event in order to continue the economic benefits the festival has brought into the area.

Lumpkin said during this year's festival, the convention center bar reported $16,000 in sales, one motel reported $15,000 increased revenue and the New Mexico Route 66 Museum raised $4,000. He said after speaking with Cantlon and gaining his support, the proposed event was created to prevent a loss in the economic benefits and tourism created by Rockabilly.

However, as the advisory board was considering the proposal, Davila asked to read a prepared statement from Cantlon and herself regarding the event.

"We were never approached about the event that Robert Lumpkin and Brian Whitcomb are proposing," Davila said.

Davila said in past phone conversation with Lumpkin and Whitcomb, they were asked who owned Rockabilly on the Route and how they would feel about an event being held as a place holder. Davila said she and Simon told Lumpkin and Whitcomb repeatedly that any event held in the first weekend of June with a Rockabilly or Americana theme would confuse the audience and be an infringement on their intellectual property rights and damage their brand.

"We told them we would not support such an event. What is being proposed here is theft," She said.

Davila said she felt Lumpkin acted deceitfully in organizing the proposal with Whitcomb. She said Lumpkin was operating on self-serving reasons with blatant disregard to her and Simon's repeated warning and advice in the matter.

Lumpkin said it was not his intention to be deceitful with the development of the proposal. He said through discussions with Cantlon, he made it clear he was going to pursue the options of continuing the event. He said while Brian's proposal outlined a five-year contract, it was decided the contract should only be for a year to cover the vacant year and possibility of Rockabilly's return.

"I am truly heartbroken at the thought that Ungie or Simon think I was trying to steal Rockabilly," Lumpkin said. "I would never go behind their backs or deceive them in order to claim what they have created and built up these past six years."

Cantlon said he was very clear when speaking to Lumpkin and Whitcomb about not supporting any event that was similar to Rockabilly that would be held as a place holder. He said he told them that he would pursue legal action should such an event be attempted.

Lumpkin said there is more than an economic value to the event; each year the event carries the name Tucumcari across the nation and world. He said there was a genuine fear that even one year off could impact the momentum created by the event over the past five years.

"Ungie and I really didn't want things to get to this point," Cantlon said. "We love Tucumcari; it is our second home."

Cantlon said he understands people are upset about there not being a festival in 2018, but he takes it personally when someone tries to "slide in and steal the very event/brand" he and Ungie have spent six years building into what it is today.

Lumpkin said the proposal was being presented at a public meeting with the knowledge that Simon and Ungie would learn of the proposal and meeting by their friends and local residents. He said it was never his intent to steal the event; he was trying to address local residents and tourist desires to see the event could continue in the following year.

Lodger's tax board members voted to table the proposal.

Davila said these latest events may make it may seem she and Simon are simply bailing on Tucumcari.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," Davila said.

Davila said she and Simon have been working with local resident Chase Dudley, who wants to produce a Route 66 Festival in the fall. She said Dudley would produce the event, and she and Simon would be consultants.

Cantlon said there have also been discussions with City Manager Jared Langenegger about meeting to discuss Rockabilly on the Route 2019. He said it was never their intention to make the residents of Tucumcari think they were pulling up stakes and leaving.

"The past six years has taken a toll on Ungie and myself, and we just needed a break," Cantlon added.

Cantlon said a lot of time and money goes into producing the festival and the two needed time off not only to rest but to rethink the money model of the event. He said the city helps with 35 to 40 percent of the funding, the remainder is generated by the two of them, who feel a better model is needed to streamline and increase the cost and revenue efficiencies.

"We are not making millions of dollars by holding the festival," Cantlon said. "We produce Rockabilly on the Route for the love of the event, for the benefit it brings to the community."


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