Allied Arts Council suspends Trails West!

After 26 years, the Trails West! festival announced it will not return next year.

Posted: Sep. 21, 2018 6:53 PM
Updated: Sep. 22, 2018 11:19 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Organizers behind one of the city's biggest festivals announced the suspension of the Trails West! Festival. Those behind the attraction say declining attendance numbers, along with rising costs led to the decision.

"The time has come, everything has a lifespan," Teresa Fankhauser, Executive Director of the Allied Arts Council, said.  

The St. Joseph Convention and Visitors Bureau was surprised to hear the news. The bureau has worked with the festival since its inception.   

"It's our largest festival that we have every year," Marci Bennett, Director of the St. Joseph Convention and Visitors Bureau, said. "It's been going on for many many years and has really helped weave the fabric of our community."

On its website, the council posted "Multiple factors were considered in making the decision."

"Over the last several years, attendance has declined," Fankhauser said. 

The festival has attracted 20-25,000 people in recent years, which is slightly down from what the festival considers normal turnout between 25-30,000 people. This year, the festival brought 10,000 people to Civic Center Park. With those numbers, the bottom line took a big hit. The council reported a deficit somewhere between $50,000-60,000.

"When the festival can no longer sustain itself, we’ve got to look for other opportunities," Fankhauser said. 

What's next for the council, downtown sponsors and those who took part in the festival for man years is uncertain,  but community leaders said they're looking forward to providing something that could better serve the city.

"Hopefully, we can [redirect] that energy into something just as positive for St. Joseph as what they were able to do with the festival," Bennett said. 

The festival has been held at the Civic Center Park every year for the past 26 years. The Allied Arts Council says they want to take time to assess what the city would like to see before moving forward with any new ideas. 

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