By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – During a meeting of the Grapeland City Council held on Tuesday, Aug. 9, local resident Bobby Jackson voiced his opinion about the proposed admittance fee to the 2018 Peanut Festival.
“My problem is – I’m up here about something I read in The Messenger about the Chamber of Commerce wanting to start charging admission to come to the Peanut Festival. I am strictly against that,” Jackson said.
He said when the Jaycees had a chapter in Grapeland some 45 years ago “… we worked our rear ends off to buy that property. I think it was from Stanley Maxwell.”
Jackson explained the Jaycees solicited donations and hosted fish fries to raise the money to buy the land.
“The people of Grapeland and Houston County actually paid for that park. The reason we did that was because we used to have the Peanut Festival on that little piece of land between the railroad track and Main Street. If I’m not mistaken that property belonged to the railroad and they told us we could not have the Peanut Festival there anymore,” Jackson recalled.
He added after they found another the location, the festival was held there for a few years until the land where the City Park now sits was purchased.
“We bought it and gave it to the city, just so we could have the Peanut Festival there. We didn’t do it just so some other organization could fill their coffers off of it. I may be the only one who raises hell about it, but it ain’t gonna happen, if there is anything I can do about it,” Jackson asserted.
Grapeland Mayor Balis Dailey asked if the council had any comments they would like to make but cautioned the council would be unable to take any action on the matter because it was not a listed agenda item.
The mayor said he was unsure if the fee would be mandatory and said he would look into it.
“They fund the pageant, they fund the scholarships and they have to carry insurance at the park. They pay for security and the utilities. The carnival actually comes in on Sunday and begin to hook up. Our restroom facilities are inadequate so they also have to pay for all the port-a-potties brought in. That is what they are trying to raise the funds for. I believe I saw the price for the festival was either $25,000 or $28,000 once they get through paying for everything,” Dailey said.
“This is just my opinion,” Dailey added, “but I don’t think they are trying to do this to make an enormous profit. I think they are trying to do this to make it viable for their finances.”
He said the city charged the Chamber of Commerce a $375 fee for the park usage but added the chamber was responsible for the utilities.
“The people of this county built that. They bought it and made it possible to have the Peanut Festival here. I don’t think we should have to pay to go to it now,” Jackson said.
Councilman George Pierson said he was not in favor of charging a fee but stressed times had changed. He also said perhaps a donation booth might be more palatable to local residents.
Following the meeting, the mayor confirmed the chamber paid the city $375 for the usage fee, but added the chamber foots the bill for the utility usage, portable restrooms, security, the bands for Friday night and roll-off dumpsters.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.