Hot Controversy Over Holiday Festival's Cool Spot

Some criticize taxpayer-funded, air-conditioned tent at Flower Mound festival

By Randy McIlwain
|  Monday, Jul 4, 2011  |  Updated 9:11 PM CDT
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Critics say the use of tax dollars for a VIP tent at Flower Mound's Independence Fest is wasteful.

Randy McIlwain, NBCDFW.com

Critics say the use of tax dollars for a VIP tent at Flower Mound's Independence Fest is wasteful.

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The coolest spot at the Flower Mound Independence Fest is a town-sponsored, air-conditioned tent.

But most people will never get a chance to cool off inside -- it's for VIPs only.

A member of Flower Mound Voters for Conservative Spending has publicly chastised the town's council for spending nearly $8,000 on the tent.

But Flower Mound Mayor Melissa Northern said the tent is an investment.

"We took a page out of many other communities' playbooks, and we're offering the VIP tent this year," she said.

Northern said the Fourth of July is a working holiday for herself and town staff, who are using the festival to recruit new businesses to the city.

Nearly 115 people signed up for the tent, many of them site selectors and developers.

Northern said it is easier to get industry leaders to come to see fireworks and live music than it is to schedule a normal business meeting.

And, in this case, they get a real sense of what the community is all about, she said.

"We've invited many of the vendors that our residents have asked to have come to Flower Mound..." Northern said.

Northern also said the VIP tent is actually saving the town money.

It replaces the annual fall event Allies Day, which recruits new businesses. The cost of that event is closer to $20,000.

"I think it's a great way to show our major sponsors, our employers, developers [and] site selectors who want to come to Flower Mound exactly what flower mound is about," Northern said.

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