Thousands of attendees to return to Hutto for KOKEFEST’s second year

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After finding greater-than-expected success during its first run, KOKEFEST is set to return to the city of Hutto for its second year.

In response the festival this year expanded its operations by spreading out its programming across Aug. 10 and 11, featuring nine country music artists.

Festival organizers have expanded the venue as well, opting to occupy space at Hutto Park at Brushy Creek, the city’s newest park.

First held Aug. 19, 2017, the inaugural KOKEFEST drew approximately 8,800 attendees to the Co-Op site in Hutto, according to organizers. Kristina Killingsworth, Director of Marketing for Austin Radio Network, says the concert attendance outpaced KOKE FM’s expectations.

“We were going to be very, very happy if we hit 5,000 people,” Killingsworth said.

This year the city expects attendance to reach between 4,000-8,000 people. In response to the crowds, Killingsworth said the festival will lean on lessons learned last year and provide free water to everyone at the concert grounds.

“If you’re going to take a financial hit, take it on water. The better we can keep attendees hydrated the better the experience is for everybody,” Killingsworth said.

KOKEFEST organizers additionally hired a full-time security team to oversee the festival and brought in a larger concession provider. Hutto Fire Rescue Chief Scott Kerwood said that organizers have added their own ambulance and EMS teams for the event. Regardless, Hutto Fire Rescue will have two small teams—fire response and EMS—on-site throughout the event to respond to emergency events.

“Last year it was very smooth considering the amount of people that we had,” Kerwood said. “There were only about a dozen total medical emergencies, and they weren’t serious at that.”

The fire chief said that last year Hutto Fire Rescue was reimbursed by the festival organizers for its services, though he has not yet been informed if that will continue this year.

Ahead of this year’s event, the city of Hutto prepared a report that estimates the economic impact that KOKEFEST will have. City officials calculated the economic impact based on attendance estimates, spending habits and projected hotel occupancy rates.

According to the report, officials estimate attendees will spend $562,100 in the area over the course of two days. The report also estimates attendees will likely book every one of Hutto’s 160 hotel rooms for at least one of the festival nights.

In all, the report calculates the city could generate $11,847 in total tax collections. That is more than double the estimate the city calculated for last year’s KOKEFEST.

Sales tax allocation numbers collected by the state do not appear to show that a jump occurred at all, however.

The city’s sales tax collections appear two months later than they are collected, according to Kevin Lyons, spokesperson for Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, meaning that October allocations reflect August revenues.

“This is the check they get back every month based on the amount of sales they did,” Lyons said.

In October 2017, the city of Hutto was allocated $336,651, which represents a 21.5 percent year-over-year increase from 2016’s sales tax allocation figures.

However, the city was allocated more sales tax revenues in both September and November. In fact, Hutto collected $111,465 more in sales tax allocations in November 2017 than in October 2017. If broken down by year-over-year sales tax revenue percentage increase, July and September still outpace August.

Conversely, other indicators show some economic impact. In a presentation to Hutto City Council on Sept. 21, 2017, Austin Radio Network Market Manager Lise Hudson reported that hotels in Hutto reached full occupancy. She continued that Lyft and Uber rides in the area went up by 18 and 22 percent, respectively, and more than $5,000 was raised for Hutto High School via parking costs.

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Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. He additionally worked with an investigative news organization where he reported on environmental topics and was a featured writer for Epicast Network, a Pittsburgh podcast company. Iain has now transitioned full-time into covering Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto.
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