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September 27, 2023

San Juan reverses course, to allow Rib Cookoff in early May

San Juan Bautista council members Tuesday reversed course and will now allow both the Rib Cookoff and California Indian Market on the same weekend in early May.

Two San Juan Bautista events were held the first weekend in May 2018 for the first time, but city officials in June indicated it won’t happen again following complaints from the Indian Market organizers about a drop-off in attendance with the Rib Cookoff moving to that same weekend.

The double-booked weekend was May 5 and 6, with the Great San Juan Bautista Rib Cookoff and California Indian Market both days. The Rib Cookoff actually plans to expand to three days next year, with the event scheduled to run May 3-5.

Indian Market founder Elayne Reyna has been arguing against allowing the Rib Cookoff on the same weekend while saying her vendors had a drop in business this year, while the Rib Cookoff organizer doesn’t see a problem holding both events over the same weekend and offered to provide free advertising for the Indian Market at Tuesday’s meeting.

Reyna has argued having the two events scheduled simultaneously caused issues with parking, and also how the two events draw different types of crowds.

“I don’t know how we could possibly coexist if my vendors don’t make money,” Reyna said Tuesday.

Reyna spoke during the June 19 San Juan Bautista Council meeting where members had a consensus agreement to come back in July with an official resolution to allow the Indian Market that weekend, but disallowing the Rib Cookoff. The California Indian Market takes place in the San Juan School soccer lot, while the cookoff is along a closed-off Third Street.

But on Tuesday night, the San Juan council heard from a public largely favoring both events on that weekend and voted to change the prior decision, thus allowing the Rib Cookoff to remain on that weekend. It was a 4-0 vote, with Councilman Dan DeVries declaring a conflict of interest.

That came after Rib Cookoff promoter Jason Williams with Williams LTD made his case on appealing the June decision.

Williams noted how his company organizes about 25 events per year and said a booked schedule on other weekends restricted him to the first weekend in May for the local rib event drawing thousands of people to the Mission City, which receives about $10,000 a year from the event on top of the boost in sales tax revenue.

“We don’t have another date in the schedule to put on that event,” Williams said.

He said in talking to San Juan merchants, many told him this year’s Rib Cookoff brought in record business for them. In response to Reyna’s issues, Williams said he is offering free print advertising for the Indian Market, a banner pointing Rib Cookoff attendees toward the San Juan School soccer lot where the Indian Market takes place, and for the Indian Market performers to take the stage at the rib event.

“We’ve been doing this for 30 years here in San Juan Bautista, and it’s one of my favorite places in the world,” said Williams, who’s based in Reno. “I’d like to do it for 30 more.”

San Juan City Manager Michaele LaForge echoed Williams’ sentiment about the business owners’ positive feedback, and some merchants spoke at the meeting as well.

“Everybody was just so excited to be able to go to both,” said Margot Tankersley, owner of Margot’s Ice Cream shop on Third Street, adding how it was the shop’s best weekend in over 22 years it’s been open. “It was fantastic.”

Before making their decision, council members discussed some possible mitigation for the Indian Market such as prohibiting vehicles from parking on an area of Third Street near the event, which calls for street closures in the main part of downtown.

“People didn’t even realize what was going on on the soccer field,” Councilman Tony Boch said, while suggesting a closure to the “Y” section of Third Street entering downtown.” “If people had to walk through there, they would see the Indian festival.”

-Kollin Kosmicki

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