Dreams of a renewed Mullet Festival ain’t dead, but they are flopping around on the deck a bit.
Due to paperwork concerns, the Mullet Festival will likely not move forward this year, according to Niceville City Manager David Deitch
Deitch broke the news to the City Council with one of the men who wants to revive the old October festival at the Council’s January meeting.
“When I got here tonight, I got some deflating news from the city manager,” Promoter Mark Wagner of White Hat Productions said, “And I guess we’ll have to go from there if there’s even going to be a Mullet Festival.”
The City Manager has been in touch with the Eglin Property Office, who says leasing the land at the Mullet Festival Grounds on a long-term contract has continued to move forward.
Deitch asked the Eglin Property Office representative if the city could get the long-term lease by October – the property officer said that is unlikely.
Deitch added that the lease proposal has to go through an appraisal by the federal government, which should take 90-120 days. The government must also perform a survey of the land. “She was not optimistic that we would have a lease done by October, which is problematic.”
In addition to the lease approval issue, the promoters must still figure out how to have the Mullet Festival event according to the lease guidelines the Air Force and the Federal Government will have on the property.
According to City Manager Deitch, the city had a license allowing them to create a revenue-generating event at the Mullet Festival Grounds. “There is currently still a license, which granted a one-month for-profit event so that the Mullet Festival could occur in the latter years [of the festival’s operation],” Deitch told the Council. “However, that was under the old license,” Deitch said, “The current license says, ‘we cannot use the Mullet Festival property for revenue-generating events.'”
Deitch added he told the land officer that White Hat Productions had a 501(c)3, and asked her to consult with the Air Force’s Legal Team at Eglin about whether or not the 501(c)3 could operate the Mullet Festival. “I’m gonna make the argument that they ain’t gonna make any profit off this event. And, so hopefully, that will win the day. And, of course, it used to be my legal office, So I might be able to sway opinions. And, I’m hoping to have a more optimistic answer for these gentlemen before the end of the week.”
Gotta be crystal clear about this part – no contracts have been signed between The City, Eglin, the promoters, or anyone else.
Still, Mark Wagner announced one of the names they are in negotiations with to play at a Mullet Festival, should it happen, in 2024.
“We’ve already started to put some money into this,” Wagner said, “We’re really excited to bring this to the community. We’re working, hopefully working with Bailey Zimmerman, a big country artist who’s won some awards. He’s on board.”
A significant development: City Manager David Deitch seemed much more optimistic about the potential for a Mullet Festival making a comeback to Boggy Bayou. “I have met with these gentlemen on a number of occasions, since the last council meeting. The concerns I expressed to you have waned – [White Hat Producitons] are headed in a positive direction. I’m hopeful that I can get everyone on board. Hopefully, we can bring this thing to fruition. It’s [Eglin’s] property, so they are kind of in the driver’s seat at this point in time.”
At past meetings, the city council’s members have repeatedly mentioned their concerns about parking availability for a potential Mullet Festival Event.
The proposal from White Hat Productions estimates they will sell 70,000 tickets over the three-day event.
According to Wagner – his business partner, Matt McKinnon, spoke to the Northwest Florida State College Police Chief. “He’s 100% on board,” Wagner told the Council. “Whether it was the holidays, they couldn’t get a meeting with the President. From what Matt was telling me, that should be coming up first of next week.”
Wagner mentioned he was in talks with AVCON’s Vice President, Lee Lewis, to use some of the land and parking the company has in the area to host cars during a potential event.