Headline News
Go Back

Christmas decorations shed light on ‘Bang for Buck’

By Bev Barr BCC Editor

For enough years to feel like tradition, the Bandera Business Association (BBA) has decorated the City Park along the Medina River with Christmas lights and decorations for the holiday season. In the past, the BBA has asked for and received $8,000 from the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to help cover the cost of this promotional tradition. This year, the BBA board of directors learned at the special meeting of the EDC on Nov. 15 that they should not expect to receive the same amount of money from the EDC this year, and that the actual amount to plan for will not be determined until the next EDC meeting, which will be Dec. 13. For this and other reasons, the BBA decided not to decorate the city park this year and obtained permission to decorate a smaller venue —the courthouse lawn— instead.
When city officials learned that the BBA would not be decorating the park as usual, the city administrator asked on behalf of the city to borrow and use the BBA’s decorations for the same purpose. A city-led decoration project would cost significantly less by utilizing city employees to install decorations rather than contracting with V&G Enterprises to do the work, as the BBA has done in past years. The total cost last year for Cowboy Christmas expenses as reported on the Bandera Business Association Profit and Loss Detail was $22,994.12 (obtained pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act).
According to Julie Conrad, president of the BBA, last year’s expenses included the one-time expense of upgrading the lights to energy-saving LED’s, which was both time consuming and costly.
“I don’t want people to think all of that money went to Genie Strickland, because it did not,” said Julie Conrad, president of the BBA. “A lot of it went to the one-time expense of buying new lights, the labor of 8 to 10 people to spend 2 weeks putting them up and another 2 weeks to take them down, the use of equipment — plus advertising.”
Conrad said that she had also discussed the matter with Art Crawford, president of the EDC, and he told her that he didn’t think it was the BBA’s responsibility to decorate the city park. He said it was, however, the BBA’s responsibility to make decisions that benefit the local merchants, and that the merchants are clearly requesting the need for a greater cowboy presence in downtown — and not just on the weekends. (Last year the BBA spent $16,000 during the entire year to support the Cowboys on Main.)
Crawford confirmed the comments discussed with Conrad. He said that no formal survey of Bandera businesses had been conducted; but that the EDC held a meeting a few months ago specifically to hear from local business owners on how best the EDC could support them. At that meeting, the consensus among business owners was that their businesses needed a greater cowboy presence in town.
Crawford said that the EDC has $36,751 ($26,900 plus $9,851 carried over from last year) to spend on “promotions” this year, which is based on a 10-percent-of-revenue cap, required by law. Last year, the EDC spent $54,365 (much of that accumulated over a period of years) to promote 15 separate nonprofit events. (See chart on page 4.) One way for the EDC to comply with this year’s budget constraints would be to cut every single request by 34 percent. But so far, Crawford said, people are being forthright about their needs.
“The marshalls said they could get by with $1,000 less this year for National Night Out,” Crawford said. “Other organizations really need every penny because there are so many costs incurred — the Memorial Pro rodeo for instance.”
The BBA’s decision not to decorate the public park this year proved to be an inciting incident that launched several hundred comments and rumors on a Facebook page designated for community chats last week. Some of the comments were straightforward expressions of disappointment, while others spouted partial and incomplete truths, falsehoods or reactionary comments of blame. The city administrator was compelled to post a clarification of the city’s offer to the BBA and the president of the BBA posted a request for individuals to give her a call personally — which is to say, it’s difficult to communicate effectively when words are picked apart and twisted on Facebook.
As the hours wore on and the dispute moved into Thanksgiving weekend, people pitched in to make the best of the reality of the situation. City Councilwoman Lynn Palmer rolled up her sleeves and volunteered alongside other volunteers and contract laborers hired by the BBA to decorate the courthouse lawn.
Conrad said that the BBA declined to lend the decorations to the city because they weren’t yet sure what decorations they would or would not be using, and that they haven’t ruled out lending decorations to the city for the city park once the courthouse lawn decorations are complete.

New Budget promotional expenses cannot exceed $36,751.
Amount awarded last year to nonprofits for promotional/marketing
BBA, Riverfest $1,000
Library, Wild Hog Explosion $1,000
Bandera ProRodeo Assn. $9,000
BBA, Cowboys on Main $8,250
Marshals, National Night Out $3,500
Boys & Girls Club, Movie Nite $3,115
BBA Christmas Lights $8,000
Kiwanas Club, Music Fest $2,500
Mardis Gras Youth Rodeo $1,000
Unrestricted Promo Expense $5,000
C of C advertising $3,000
C of C Parade $5,500
C of C Hunters BBQ $1,000
Honor Veterans Now $1,000
Medina River Protection Fund $1,500
Total $54,365