Union Pacific Railroad tells Loose Caboose 'no' to 24th annual festival

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - A festival that salutes Paragould's rich railroad history will no longer be "out back by the tracks." After 24 years, Loose Caboose is being told "No" to having the festival at the railroad tracks in Downtown Paragould.

"Which has always been our tagline: 'out back by the tracks,'" Executive Director of Main Street Paragould, Gina Jarrett told Region 8 News.

It all started right before last year's Loose Caboose festival. Two days before the event, an employee with Union Pacific Railroad wrote a letter to Mayor Mike Gaskill saying there might be a problem with holding Loose Caboose on their grounds.

"Union Pacific owns those parking lots. The city does rent them, the city has been very good stewards of that property," Jarrett explained, "but it is truly Union Pacific's grounds...so we don't have much choice."

As a solution, that employee then went and bought 1,500 feet of orange, caution fencing to separate the tracks from the festivities. Jarrett said after that, she, the Paragould Police Department as well as the Union Pacific Police Department thought the issue was solved.

However, Jarrett recently received a certified letter from Union Pacific telling her they had to find a more sturdy fence for the festival. Something she was told could be rented from Little Rock or Dallas for $7,000.

"I just told him that wasn't possible," she said. Last year, Jarrett said the festival only made $4,300.

"We've never made a lot of money. It's more of a gift to the community than it is a huge money maker, and for us to know that we were planning on spending, for one item, more than the festival cleared, was just not financially feasible. It just couldn't happen.'

Jarrett said at that point, there was only one option. Move.

"They have graciously decided to let us use the Greene County Fairgrounds," Jarrett said. She doesn't know if this move will become permanent, but the 24th Annual Loose Caboose will have a home.

"The 24th is taken care of. 25th may not be 'out back by the tracks', it may not be at the fairgrounds, but it will be somewhere," Jarrett said. "We will continue with Loose Caboose. There's no question about that."

Loose Caboose will be held on the 3rd weekend in May. This year, it will start on Friday, May 18. Jarrett told Region 8 News that in the future, they hope to work something out with Union Pacific so Loose Caboose can move back to its original home.

Copyright 2013 KAIT. All Rights Reserved.