Marble Falls Soapbox Classic organizers have hit the brakes on the 2020 event.
City of Marble Falls officials denied a special events permit for the annual adult soapbox derby, which has raced down Third Street for 10 years. Event organizers added they do not plan to appeal the decision.
Event organizer Shannon Heep learned of the decision February 7 through a letter from Marble Falls Police Chief Mark Whitacre. The letter stated that, due to changes requested by Marble Falls Soapbox Classic organizers to previously approved traffic plans and timelines, the special event permit had been denied.
“Based upon our review, and there have been previous years where we’ve recommended this as well, we think it needs to go to a two-day event,” said Marble Falls City Manager Mike Hodge. “The other (issue) was the street closure plan and the extent of how much of Main Street they were proposing to close. Again, we think you can be more efficient with the event and not restrict access to those Main Street merchants.”
In previous years, the Marble Falls Soapbox Classic was a three-day affair, running from Friday afternoon through Sunday.
The city’s proposal included partial closures of streets, fewer closures in general, and a more concentrated area for the event.
“We’re very disappointed that we couldn’t find a workable plan to keep the derby going forward,” Heep said in a statement. “It’s been a great 10 years, and we are so thankful to all our sponsors, racers, volunteers, and fans over the years.”
In January, derby racers and fans spoke before both the Marble Falls Hotel-Motel Tax Advisory Committee and later the City Council to show their support for the event and air their grievances at the perceived drama between event organizers and some downtown merchants.
“The main reason was our frustration with the city permitting process. That was the reason the soapbox derby was being put to a close,” Heep said in during the Hotel-Motel Tax Advisory Committee meeting January 16. “You can imagine if we were all going to give up and throw our hands up in the air — and we are some die-hard derby fans — that it was pretty bad.”
During the City Council meeting January 21, the council had approved $10,000 from HOT funding for the event. Derby organizers had requested $15,000.
At the council meeting February 4, in response to a schedule and route put forth by the city following their application, Heep offered to cancel the street dance and parade events and alter vendor placement.
Derby officials filed their permit application February 3, the day before special events rules were changed during the February 4 council meeting. The changes were made, at least in part, at the request of the derby organization and included measures to increase communication between the city and event organizers.
Under the old ordinance, which still applies to Heep due to the day of filing, she has 10 days to file for an appeal.