Buda resident Melissa McCrary realized how iconic Budafest was to the community when she moved to the area eight years ago. Last year, McCrary finally got the chance to participate when she applied for a craft vendor booth.
But her excitement turned sour after she discovered vendors wouldn’t receive a reimbursement of their application fees, even after the event was canceled due to weather.
Now McCrary and other vendors, along with city leaders, are seeking answers from Budafest committee members regarding the application and the $11,000 in vendor fees.
McCrary, who applied as a craft vendor in November, said issues began two weeks prior to the event when she realized weather could play a factor. She said she contacted Budafest committee member Eileen Conley through Facebook about a possible deadline to back out.
McCrary claimed Conley never responded to her question and ultimately decided to let them “make the call” on the event.
The day before the event, McCrary said she tried to reach out to Conley and committee member Elaine Purvis regarding a possible cancellation due to weather.
McCrary said she never received an email from either one on the topic. It wasn’t until she saw on the city of Buda’s website that she knew the event had been cancelled.
Budafest committee member Bert Bronaugh said the decision to ultimately cancel the event was a joint decision between the committee and the city of Buda.
“No one reached out to me as a vendor and there were several vendors I talked to, they never got an email as well,” McCrary said.
Bronaugh could neither confirm nor deny whether vendors were contacted regarding the cancellation of the event, as Conley was responsible for that portion of the festival.
The Hays Free Press reached out to Conley for a comment, but she did not respond as of press time.
“Personally I don’t know what kind of vendor outreach was accomplished, but I’m sure she (Conley) was upfront and forward about this (the event cancellation),” Bronaugh said.
Bronaugh said he was in charge of the food vendors who paid a $100 fee for a booth at the event. Bronaugh said he remained in contact with vendors prior to the event, and told them it was in a “holding pattern” for the time being.
“None of them have requested a refund,” Bronaugh said, “They all have access to my phone number as it appears at the bottom of the food vendor registration form.”
While McCrary was glad the event was cancelled due to rain, word began to disseminate that vendors weren’t going to get their deposit back. She then attempted to email Purvis to get an explanation.
McCrary said she was told to “read the contract” for craft vendors, which said vendors must pay $125 for a reservation and there would be no refunds.
Eventually, she received a response Dec. 3, 2016 with Purvis saying the committee has “never refunded Budafest craft booth fees due to weather cancellation,” according to an email provided by McCrary to the Hays Free Press.
Bronaugh said committee members have cancelled or rescheduled the event in the past, but they have never had any problems.
Purvis said the event coordinates with the city and a “small army of paid contract and service providers that may or may not be able to reschedule on such short notice,” Purvis wrote.
“Even though we cancelled, we still incur costs for advertising, rental fees, etc,” Purvis wrote in her email. She added 2016 was the first time in the 37-year history of the event that vendors would receive a $40 credit toward the next year.
“Not only do we incur a loss this year, but next year as well with reduced booth fees,” Purvis wrote.
She added the response to the cancellation was “overwhelmingly positive” from longtime vendors and that they “understand Budafest still has to pay the bills that go with putting on a festival, come rain or shine.”
Although Purvis and Conley are in charge of finances, Bronaugh said he knows that quite a bit of money was spent on up-front costs that were paid via vendor fees.
Those include advertising, dumpster use, port-a-potty rentals, insurance for the event and other fees that had to be paid early using vendors booth rent fees.
Bronaugh also said $1,000 that the city of Buda committed to the event through the Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) fund had never actually been paid to them.
But McCrary remains upset at the lack of language within either vendor application regarding weather. She was also upset at the difficulty in obtaining a response from committee members.
According to the food booth application, vendors are required to make a committment to serve the public “regardless of weather conditions.” However, neither application offered language on contingencies regarding weather cancellations.
McCrary now hopes the committee presents its expenditures made during the event. Such a report was not made available during a presentation on Budafest at the Feb. 7 city council meeting.
“I want to see the numbers and I want someone to say, ‘this is what we made,’” McCrary said. “Why can’t they reimburse us more than $40 (credit)? It’s not even a reimbursement.”