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Float Fest appeal for permit denied

Friday, April 12, 2019

In a minimally-worded ruling released Thursday, a Guadalupe County district judge upheld the county’s denial for a permit that would have brought upwards of 25,000 people back to Float Fest on the San Marcos River in Guadalupe County.

Thomas Watkins, an Austin-based attorney who represented Current Events, LLC, — Float Fest’s promoter — did not return a voice message left at his office seeking comment. The festival’s promoter’s next steps were unclear Thursday afternoon, a few short months before the event’s scheduled date.

“The court, after hearing arguments, review of the case file, case law and after reviewing the video of the commissioner’s court hearing dated Jan. 24, 2019, hereby affirms the ruling of the Guadalupe County Commissioner’s Court,” wrote 25th Judicial District Judge William D. Old III in his decision signed Thursday.

The ruling rejects an appeal from Current Events, LLC, in an attempt to have overturned the commissioners court’s 3-2 vote denying a large gathering permit request. The festival has been held here annually since 2014 when it attracted about 5,000 people, said Guadalupe County Judge Kyle Kutscher, who voted against the promoter’s petition in January.

The festival has continued to grow and prosper. It has outgrown Cool River Ranch — the area where it is held — and the small country road leading to that area of the river, Kutscher said.

“They’ve asked for more people each year,” he said. “It’s just gotten past the point of what that road can handle and what it can safely take as far as the number of vehicles.”

On Wednesday, Old heard arguments from attorneys in the case and told them he would take their words under advisement. He let the parties know that he would then make a ruling, which came down a day later.

Old heard the case because Marcus Federman and Current Events, the promoter of Float Fest, filed a lawsuit claiming the commissioners court disregarded rules written in a county statute and improperly assessed the permit application that was filed.

For his part, without speaking for the entire court, Kutscher said the ruling was about safety on the road and so much more.

“It’s not only about that but the statute is very clear on the grounds of what the application can be denied for,” he said. “Over the years, there’s been a consistent voice from the people who are opposed to the event that, yes, they don’t like the congestion and the unsafe nature of what it does to the roads, how they can’t get in and out of their homes. But the noise has always been a major concern. The language and vulgar nature of some of the artists have been a point of concern over previous years.”

Other concerns include what happens to the people who attend the event and those downstream after, Kutscher said.

“The alcohol consumption, people driving (is another),” he said. “And one of the other things that has always been a concern is what it was doing to the environmental nature of the river, ... if it was a negative impact to the waterway.”

The festival is scheduled to happen July 18 to 21. Whether that actually will occur is yet to be seen. According to the Float Fest Facebook page, in an update dated Wednesday, a lineup for this year’s event is set to be released soon.

Kutscher said, of course, he doesn’t know what promoters will decide but he believes there are a few options available to still allow Float Fest to happen for 2019.

“I think they could try to appeal this decision, which would take a long time,” he said. “They could move forward with seeking an application in a neighboring county, which I think they have been working on. Or they could modify and allow fewer people and try seeking an application again in Guadalupe County.”

Float Fest is a tubing and music festival held in Guadalupe County on the San Marcos River. The festival has been held in late July every year since 2014. The festival has grown in size and in popularity of musical acts with each subsequent year. Float Fest has showcased performers such as Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne, Tame Impala and Weezer in previous years.

Dalondo Moultrie is the assistant managing editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at dalondo.moultrie@seguingazette.com.