The bulls and Taste of Cave Creek

The long awaited Oct. 14 and 15 are now history. Both the Running of the Bulls and Taste of Cave Creek went off on schedule.

Generally speaking, both were somewhat of a disappointment. The heat probably had a lot to do with attendance, although I suspect the restaurants did well with out-of-town visitors. Who would have thought last weekend would soar to 100 degrees after the delightful week preceding the heat rebound?

Town officials estimated the events were 25 percent of expectations. Prior weeks were full of anticipation and excitement about the Running of the Bulls. Would you believe it was a front page story in the New York Times? National and local television discussed the event frequently as did talk radio. All of the promoter’s free publicity gave observers ka-ching anticipation and possible crowds of 10,000 were part of the town’s belief.

canfield editorial cartoon
Linda Bentley and I went to the media Running of the Bulls late Friday and watched the first heat. All the worry about safety and runners getting trampled or gored proved to be fable. The bulls looked like they were ready for the glue factory and had to be whipped into running by cowboys on horseback. One bystander said the bulls looked like pets. The event may have been fashioned after Pamplona Spain, but these were neither Mexican fighting bulls like they have in Spain, nor rodeo bulls.

Even after a soft Saturday, I drove to town Sunday worried about bumper to bumper traffic, but the streets were clear. Parking lots were empty but the Taste of Cave Creek, at one o’clock in the afternoon was packed.

The promoter depended on free publicity rather than advertising and it didn’t get the results he anticipated. For example, Sonoran News reaches about 40,000 homes in the six zip codes surrounding Cave Creek and could have substantially added to attendance.

Mayor Vincent Francia received about a dozen complaints, obviously orchestrated, probably from PETA members, stating they couldn’t believe any town would be so thoughtless. Francia promised to agenize a council discussion about town events. There has been a gradual reduction of town requirements for special events which allow town businesses great latitude. All of this was based on enhancing revenue during tough times.

Historically, mom and pops throughout town didn’t hesitate to show up at council meetings about outsiders affecting their businesses. Principal offenders were Magic Bird, who complainants accused of bringing in their tents on the five best weekends of the year denying them a profitable year. So, as a result, such events were previously limited.

These days, for example, the Thieves’ Market shows up on the Bob Kite property whenever they please in direct competition with Cave Creek retail stores. It isn’t a towns’ job to protect businesses from competition, but businesses that are on owned or leased property have a right to complain. Since there is little or no complaint at town hall, one wonders why.

I talked to the owner of both a restaurant and retail property and asked what effect they experienced with the outside tents. I was told retail completely dried up due to the tent cities but their restaurant business boomed, so they didn’t complain. That still doesn’t explain why the retail businesses are not complaining like they used to.

But what would town residents do if we had 10,000 people attending a bull run? Since Cave Creek has a single artery winding through town a crowd of that size would have seriously impacted citizens and there would be much ire at town hall and in council meetings.

Local politicians are aware that they serve in political positions thanks to citizens’ vote, not town businesses. On the other hand, serving in a free capacity with more complaints rather than praise is tough to take. Take CCUSD’s school board for example; qualified people just don’t typically sign up for that board. Cave Creek is fortunate to have a competent council and Carefree is improving.

The opening of Walmart in Cave Creek creates new expectations.

The average revenue per store is about $100 million. If that average is met locally, Walmart would be paying $3 million in local taxes. Is this alone sufficient to drop water rates to previous levels?

The financial issue is complicated. Will residential development ever return to previous levels when impact fees alone supported a flush town hall? Remember the fees were made high to slow growth, to “keep Cave Creek Cave Creek.” The barren lands to the west will need large numbers of commercial customers as well as residential areas. As new people come here, the temperament of the town may change. Will Cave Creek stay Cave Creek?

We will see. However change is rapid and unpredictable. Who would have planned for a real estate bust and extended unemployment? I know of no city or town that predicted the pickle we are in.

And as far as Running of the Bulls is concerned, people like to see danger. Why else does the public visit boxing matches, football games and NASCAR? Their event might have more appeal if the Bulls were nasty and mean and the runners were truly gifted athletes who smile at danger like mountain climbers, boxers and football players do.