Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

June festival canceled


May 13, 2020

The promoter for the Rockin’ Route 66 festival in June canceled the event Monday after Tucumcari’s acting city manager recommended doing so during last week’s Lodgers Tax Board meeting.

Acting city manager Mark Martinez said after examining the governor’s COVID-19 plan to reopen the state’s economy this summer, he concluded it would be nearly impossible to hold the Rockin’ Route 66 festival on June 25-28 and would recommend canceling it this year.

He told the board at its Wednesday meeting that through July 1, the state would allow the full or partial reopening of many businesses but would keep a ban on mass gatherings of 100 or more people, with no festivals or fairs allowed. He said the estimated end of that ban remains unknown.

That would prevent Rockin’ Route 66 from happening in 2020, he said.

“My recommendation is to cancel and roll it into cash for next year,” Martinez said. “I think it’s smart fiscally to stop at this point.”

Martinez said he would call the festival’s Georgia-based promoter, Brian Whitcomb, after the meeting about his findings and recommendation.

Whitcomb issued a statement Monday, confirming the festival’s cancellation, and pledged to work towards the 2021 event.

“This announcement comes with a heavy heart. We never thought we would be in this position. It is with great sadness that we are having to make this announcement official,” Whitcomb wrote.

“During the last several months, we have watched so many festivals like ours forced to cancel. We were hoping that time would be on our side. Our thoughts go out to all the families and businesses that have been impacted by this pandemic. The effects blur all lines, as the virus sees no color, no boundaries, no distinction of age, nor cares who you are as a person. We know personally how this has impacted entertainers. So many of the artists were looking forward to entertaining you, and a few have now been displaced from their homes.”

Whitcomb said he has offered sponsors to carry over their support to the 2021 festival, which would be the 95th anniversary of Route 66. He noted many Tucumcari motels have agreed to hold over reservations to next year, and many of the festival’s entertainers booked this year will return in 2021. He also thanked the Lodgers Tax Board and city for their support.

“There is a silver lining to all of this. Next year is the commemorative 95th anniversary of Route 66,” Whitcomb wrote. “So, if there was ever a time to be compelled to reschedule a festival and your plans, the timing is right. Throughout this current festival year, the producers have already started work on some new additions to ensure the 95th anniversary will be special.”

He said he would air a livestreamed concert with several Rockin’ Route 66 artists at 4:15 p.m. June 27 on rockinroute66.com and the festival’s Facebook page. That would have been during festival weekend.

Whitcomb organized the inaugural Rockin’ Route 66 festival to Tucumcari last year, replacing the annual Rockabilly on the Route after a one-year hiatus when that event’s organizers halted it indefinitely. He estimated the first Rockin’ Route 66 drew about 4,000 people and plans a larger festival during Route 66’s 100th anniversary in 2026.

The pandemic has prompted the cancellation of several Tucumcari events this spring and summer, including Rawhide Days, New Mexico Music Showcase and Rattler Reunion.

The board earlier in the meeting unanimously voted to give $3,500 to Rockin’ Route 66 to achieve the total of $23,500 it requested for this year’s festival. The Tucumcari City Commission initially gave the festival $20,000 a year ago.

Board member Matt Bednorz said the additional allocation would be “a good gesture” to the festival’s organizers.

In other business:

• Board members discussed a problem with recreational vehicles parking in the closed Kmart lot on the city’s east side, leaving behind trash and depriving income to RV parks and lodgers tax funds to the city.

Board member Mike Castelli, co-owner of the Blaze-N-Saddle RV Park, said he counted 51 RVs parked at the Kmart lot in April. He said that’s a conservative figure because he doesn’t constantly monitor that property. Castelli said that’s a potential revenue loss of $1,530 for the city’s RV parks, $128 in state taxes and $76 in lodgers taxes.

Martinez advised someone should contact the property owner to inform him about the problem and a potential liability issue. The city also can have police officers patrol the area if he requested it.

City commissioner Todd Duplantis, a liaison for the board, noted the parking lot contains a “No Truck Parking” sign and acknowledged littering is a problem. He said he would talk to the property owner to address the issue.

• City Finance Director Rachelle Arias reported lodgers tax revenue in April, generated in March, was $55,518.89, within 0.06% of projections. She said four to five motel owners deferred payments because of a sharp drop in revenue in April due to pandemic restrictions. Duplantis later clarified the motels that deferred tax payments made arrangements with city officials before doing so.

Arias said the city would see a steep drop in lodgers tax revenue in May. Board Chairman Larry Smith agreed, saying: “April was pretty awful.”

On a related note, Smith said he recently learned from the New Mexico Hospitality Association the state’s 25% occupancy limit applies not to the number of rooms, but to the total number of people who could stay at motel. That would enable motels and hotels to rent out more rooms to single people and couples without violating the health order, he said.

• Duplantis said he’s working with the lieutenant governor to draft a state relief package to help motels and businesses that are “operating below their bottom line.”


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