UPDATE: After leaving Delray Beach, the search for a Garlic Fest host city has been narrowed down to two cities that have not been disclosed yet.
An event organizer confirmed Tuesday that the event will be staying in Palm Beach County and it will be expanding, specially the children's area and rides.
It’s motto is “The best stinkin’ party in town.” But Delray Beach’s Garlic Fest may be moving out of downtown.
“It feels as though we’re being targeted,” said Nancy Stewart.
For 17 years, she’s organized the event, filling Old School Square with music, vendors, and, of course, garlicky food. But the city denied her application for 2017’s Garlic Fest.
Last year, the city created a new policy to limit the number of special events downtown. City leaders said residents and business owners were tired of events closing streets and congestion downtown. They also felt like the downtown had grown to be self-sufficient and didn’t need as many events to lure people to the area.
The first major festival to feel the impacts of those changes is Garlic Fest. The chamber of commerce’s Wine and Seafood Festival was also denied.
“Everyone we’re talking to is appalled like, 'what do you mean?' ” Stewart said.
Her team made changes to the 2017 Garlic Fest plans to follow the city’s new rules, such as not blocking any roads and eliminating mechanical carnival rides. But the rules say the city can only have one major festival each month and the Delray Open tennis tournament is already scheduled for February 2017.
“I think there needs to be exceptions and negotiations because not everything falls into a black and white, cookie- cutter scenario,” Stewart said.
Opinions are mixed.
“We’d be more likely to come if there was a festival and then we’d walk around the shops and spend money here, as opposed to somewhere else,” pointed out Coral Springs resident Dennis Doolan.
Mitch Loren said he plans his trips to Delray Beach to visit family specifically to avoid dates of special events downtown.
“It’s very hard to come down here,” Loren said. “My father is handicapped, he has trouble walking and we can’t get him to the restaurants.”
Vice Mayor Al Jacquet said the number of festivals is always hot topic. He’s heard complaints about the number of events, as well as public support to save certain events.
During Tuesday night’s city commission meeting, Stewart will make a formal appeal to Jacquet and city commissioners to allow her event back in downtown.
“With Garlic Fest, the question is going to be is it still part of the fabric of our town, and if so, does it belong downtown or should we put it in another part of town. It’s a tough decision,” Jacquet said.
Stewart said she’s looking at other locations, in the city and county but believes downtown Delray Beach is the best fit.
— Charlie Keegan (@CKeeganWPTV) June 20, 2016