After dealing with ever-changing venues, dust, parking issues and rising costs, a growing segment of Brentwood leaders and longtime residents want the Brentwood CornFest to return to the downtown area, but the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce believes that move may be infeasible.
"The CornFest has gotten out of control. It is a money issue now. It is so commercial," Brentwood City Councilman Bob Brockman said. "It has become a financial thing rather than a community thing."
Brockman said many Brentwood residents have skipped the city's signature festival for years because of the high costs for a family to attend, crowds coming in from other areas and changing the atmosphere of the event and the nuisance of dealingwith the venue change each year. In the past five years, the CornFest has taken place in four different locations during the revitalization of downtown and the Brentwood Civic Center.
Brentwood Vice Mayor Steve Barr is another vocal proponent of moving CornFest downtown, saying that the event has grown too large in the other locations.
"It is an event that needs to be about our community," Barr said.
Relocating the event, which draws about 40,000 people each summer, to downtown Brentwood would mean removal of the carnival, interference with downtown shopping, potential damage to the revamped City Park, possibly less chamber employee help, and reduced funding to local nonprofits, according to Brentwood Chamber President Paul
"The older, more established people, who remember the old days, want us to go back in time. That is possible, if everybody is willing to make CornFest an event for pleasure and not for profit," he said.
Kelly added that the CornFest has helped to keep the Brentwood Chamber viable during this economic downturn.
"The biggest issue is the interference and interruption of the local businesses in the downtown community. The fencing will be altered and it is a nightmare to make it safe and ensure that people pay to get in," Kelly noted. "Somebody somewhere has to decide that CornFest will be a small-town event."
But Brockman argued that the new City Park is designed for CornFest with wide walkways, a sound system for live music, additional seating and water features. According to Brockman, the festival grew over the years to accommodate rides, the children's area and bigger musical acts, but local residents want to be able to enjoy it again.
He added that it should be for charity -- not for profit -- with free admission and separate concert fees.
Historically, local nonprofits have raised money by selling beverages at CornFest and, in recent years, about $50,000 was distributed among 26 local agencies. If the festival is scaled back because of a downtown move, Kelly said that the chamber event may only help about 10 organizations.
Kelly said that the event could be scaled back with softer music, smaller vendors, a select crowd and more of a focus on agricultural issues. More importantly, he said that the festival must find a permanent location because the yearly move to various agricultural lots has taken its toll on the chamber.
"CornFest is like the carnival. It is packed up every year as we look for our next location. It has caused us great harm," he said.
In the coming months, Kelly said that the chamber will decide CornFest's fate in the next few years.
"I would say the chances of it ever being downtown are minimal," he said. "Logistically, it becomes a mess."