Annual festival on shaky ground


Madisonville's premier event, the Texas Mushroom Festival, may not happen this year unless things - including volunteer participation - pick up.

Organizers voted Feb. 27 to pause the festival.

Outgoing TMF president Laura Lawrenz said that at the last board meeting, no one was willing to take control of the festival, and since getting volunteers has been an ongoing problem, a motion was made to pause the festival for this year.

However, Lawrenz said that Madisonville Area Revitalization Initiative is moving forward to secure vendors nonetheless, as they are only partners with the festival.

In her capacity as the city's tourism and convention manager, Lawrenz said she will work with MARI to ensure there is some event here if the festival does not move forward.

"A new board was voted in to handle the hiatus and to plan for 2019," she said. "There was some discussion as to the scope of the festival, which may end up being smaller."

Incoming president Steve Carter said a new board will decide the course for the future of the festival.

The new board consists of Carter as president, Janis Baker as secretary and Donna Isaacs as treasurer. Susan Warmuth was voted as member at large.

The outgoing board did decide to pause festival, based on Carter's motion, based on lack of participation, according to meeting minutes.

"We went through two board meetings where no one would step up to take on the board," Carter said. "In light of the fact that we had no officers and no participation, we voted to suspend."

Carter said that if there are no volunteers, you can't pull off the event.

Sharon Phelps, director of MARI, said the organization will do what it always does.

"MARI was a sponsor of TMF, and we felt like we enhanced one another - (the TMF) did the festival and we did the vendors, as we have for 28 years," she said.

There will be vendors, even though it may not be part of the festival, she said.

"There's been talk of downsizing the festival, but I don't want to see them go dormant; if they have to, that's their decision," she said. "I stated at the last meeting that I did not want to see the festival be dormant, because a lot of times, you take something off the table, it's hard to get back on the table."

Carter said that the vote to put it into dormancy was to allow time to regroup.

"We had rough time in the last festival, caused problems with volunteers," he said. "The question is why there is no participation; I do know that once the decision was made to suspend the festival, it was no problem to elect the board."

Carter said the new executive board was to meet Tuesday to discuss what the future of the festival looked like, and that he was meeting with the city, MARI and others for input.