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Fest organizers hoping for more than 2 days of Fun

AUSTIN MUSIC SOURCE

Chad Swiatecki

Transmission Entertainment promoters have asked the city to alter a policy that could limit Fun Fun Fun Fest to two days instead of its long-planned three days at Auditorium Shores.

A resolution from the Austin Music Commission made on behalf of Transmission founder James Moody requests that the city parks department work to help the festival get approval for a third day despite a yearly cap on the total number of event days at the park along Lady Bird Lake.

At a music commission meeting earlier this month, Moody explained how he and other festival organizers had worked with city officials for more than a year on moving the fest to Auditorium Shores from its original location at Waterloo Park, which is set to undergo two to three years of construction for the Waller Creek Tunnel Project.

In all those talks, Moody said, the plan had been for the fest to continue its growth as a three-day event, but this spring he was alerted to a 1998 policy limiting Auditorium Shores to 25 days of gatherings a year. Two days of Fun Fun Fun Fest puts the park at its limit.

That meant organizers had to put the brakes on booking and other plans for the popular festival, which is scheduled for Nov. 5-6 and last year drew 15,000 attendees for three days at Waterloo Park.

In remarks to the commission, Moody argued that scaling back to two days would damage the festival's global reach and take money away from musicians, vendors and festival employees.

"When you go from a three-day fest down to two days, it puts a dent in your reputation," said Moody, who also owns the Mohawk bar and music club. "There are lots of things that don't fit in an Excel spreadsheet that are at risk here."

"We have a victim here where time is of the essence, and if we don't address this we risk another blow for what we've identified as an already fragile music community," commission member Paul Oveisi said before the vote.

Commission members approved the resolution 6-0.

Commission chairman Brad Stein said he, music programs manager Don Pitts and parks and recreation director Sarah Hensley were trying to schedule a meeting this week to discuss the issue. Stein said because the cap is an administrative measure instead of a city ordinance it can more than likely be addressed without having to put a measure before the council.

"Once we meet, I imagine if it has to go anywhere from there it would be the assistant city manager or the city manager, and the only way we'd have to do anything with council is if there was still nothing being done to make this happen," Stein said.

If the third day is approved, Fun Fun Fun Fest organizers will reach out to the 1,000 customers who bought discounted two-day passes earlier this month and offer a three-day pass at a prorated discount rate. The next round of festival tickets is slated to go on sale in July, with a lineup announcement by the end of July or mid-August, depending on how quickly the parks issue wraps up.

"You never know; it could all come together right away or we might need a full 60 days to get something done," Moody said. "We had already made lots of calls (to bands) before this came about because we had been planning on three days all along."

Because of neighborhood considerations, the city in 1998 limited the number of annual event days at Auditorium Shores to 25. There are 20 days booked through 2011 with five emergency days set aside for spontaneous events such as a presidential visit or large sports celebration.

No other city parks have a similar cap, though events must have plans approved by the city.

Parks events manager Jason Mauer said Fun Fun Fun Fest was allowed a third day for the first time in 2010 because the wear and tear its patrons put on Waterloo Park wouldn't have to be repaired with the park being bulldozed and reconstructed.

That construction has been rescheduled until the end of October and Mauer said likely further delays could make it a viable location for Fun Fun Fun again this year, but festival organizers have opted to continue with the planned move to Auditorium Shores and lobby for a third day there instead.