Katy Area Chamber of Commerce cites low attendance, lack of leadership for cancelling historic Rice Harvest Festival

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After hosting the annual Rice Harvest Festival for 37 consecutive years, the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce announced June 13 it was forced to cancel this year’s event due to low attendance in recent years and a lapse in leadership. A day later, the city officially announced it would host the festival.

“It boils down to the fact that the festival is a huge project with many moving parts that have to be planned and managed,” Marcus Henneke, chairman for the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce wrote in an email.   “There are over 100 volunteers and 1,000-plus volunteer hours to manage to put on the event,”

Former President Ann Hodges left the chamber in late April, and chamber officials said putting on the festival would be nearly impossible without a president at the helm.

“The chamber is primarily a volunteer organization, and the president is the one who has planned and managed all those parts,” he said.

Henneke said the chamber is actively searching for a new president but does not have a timeline on when a new hire will be made. The chamber has undergone several changes over the last few months, including the chamber’s relocation from its LaCenterra office to 555 Park Grove in mid-June.

Henneke said the low attendance seen at last year’s festival also played a part in the decision to cancel the event. The chamber was unable to provide attendance numbers as of press time.

After news of the cancellation spread, the city of Katy announced June 14 it had planned to take over the festival and renamed it to the “City of Katy Rice Festival.”

“Our goal is to bring the festival back to its original form,” Katy Mayor Chuck Brawner said in a press release. “It will be a family-oriented [sic]event with only quality arts and craft vendors, live music, excellent food and drinks and fun for the whole family—an event that the city of Katy, our residents and businesses and visitors would be proud of.”

The festival’s mission is to give back to the community and help raise funds for over 60 nonprofit organizations as well as Katy ISD high schools. Last year, KISD high schools that volunteered at the event raised $2,000 for senior projects, Henneke said.

The city approved $78,000 in hotel occupancy tax funds June 9 that will be used to help fund the festival. In previous years, funding for the festival was based on vendor fees, tickets and drink sales, Henneke said.

Henneke said is unsure if the chamber will reclaim oversight of the festival but is grateful the city stepped in.

“We think the city will do a great job hosting the festival,” Henneke said.

Those interested in sponsorships or volunteering may contact director of tourism and public relations Kayce Reina at kreina@cityofkaty.com.

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