CONWAY, Ark. (KTHV) - A petition is creating controversy in Conway. Some downtown business owners are collecting signatures hoping for major changes to Toad Suck Daze, an event that brings in an average of 150,000 people to the downtown area each year.
The Conway Chamber Of Commerce said that at least 20 businesses signed the petition. Some believe the festival hurts their business, and they want it moved out of downtown.
"It's a lot of fun to not just attend it, but be a part of it," said Marla Stanton, owner of Blue Kite Boutique in Downtown Conway. This year was her first Toad Suck Daze with a store front. "We pulled out our clearance clothes, a lot of handmade local stuff and just tried to cater to people that were out on the street, rather than depend on them to come into the store."
To Stanton, Toad Suck Daze was a success for establishing her new business location and for sales, but other merchants don't feel the same way. Title company owner, Tom Poe, told THV11 that the festival sets up right outside his store, making it difficult to do business as normal.
"I have kiddie rides literally right outside my front door. Employees have to walk 6 to 8 blocks just to get to the business, and then customers have a hard time coming in to close," explained Poe.
"I think there's been some dissatisfaction for downtown businesses for many years," said Chamber of Commerce President Brad Lacy, who said the board needs to discuss three different options. "One, would be to keep it here to work for a way to make sure the merchants are winning on that weekend. The second, would be to have some discussion to move it somewhere, and then third discussion we'll have is that we don't do the festival at all."
However, the chamber said the option of moving the festival might be too difficult.
"The cost would be too much. There are really few places that could handle that," said Lacy.
One thing that everyone can agree on is that they want an open discussion to talk about possibilities.
"[We want to] continue working with the downtown owners to come up with a happy medium," said Poe.
"I think we need to all get together and talk about. I think we can find something that will fit for each business model," added Stanton.
The Chamber of Commerce wants a final decision to happen in the next couple of months because they need to start planning for next year's festival. The board expects to meet June 19 to figure out the next step.