Still no venue for Westside Summerfest after businesses refuse to host event

Summer is almost upon us, but as of right now families on the westside will have nowhere to celebrate. Just three months before the big event, the city still has not secured a venue for the Westside Summerfest.

“Oh, I’m not nervous yet,” said Dr. Shelle Sanchez, Director of the Cultural Services Department. 

Two weeks ago, KRQE News 13 asked one of Dr. Sanchez’ employees, marketing specialist Tanya  Lenti, what the holdup was and she said there isn’t one. Adding, no one had turned them down.

However, through a public record request, KRQE News 13 obtained emails showing three businesses have refused to have Summerfest outside their stores.

“I don’t think it was an intentional misleading. We’re just in the middle of trying to figure all this out so we can get it set,” said Sanchez.

Emails show the department has been working with Cottonwood Mall since October, trying to set up Summerfest in one of the department store parking lots that is big enough for the event. Last month, Hobby Lobby, Home Life Furniture and Dillards shot down the city. In an email, Dillards said it “wasn’t good for his business.”

“I did know that Dillards didn’t want to have it there and that’s absolutely their decision,” said Sanchez.

The other businesses did not provide a specific reason. JC Penny’s, Macy’s and BJ’s would have allowed Summerfest to set up in their parking lots, but the space was not big enough. Sanchez says they’re still trying to make it work with Cottonwood.

“It’s not a no until it’s an absolute no and we’re still working on it,” said Sanchez.

Sanchez says if it doesn’t, they’ll find another space big enough for Summerfest, even on the compact westside. “The westside doesn’t have as many natural large gathering spaces. It grew differently. It was designed differently,” said Sanchez.

Sanchez would not say what other venues her team may be looking at. She’s planning to nail down a venue within the next two weeks.

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