Business groups plan to unite to organize community festival

Board members from the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce and the Christian Business Leaders Association say they are working together to bring unity to the business community. Front row from left are Valerie Zapien, Chamber President Bob Calvisi, Cheryl New, Annie Pogue and Alma Jellison. Back from left are David Polser, Greg Haley and John Johnston. (Photo by Shelly Wilkison)

Board members from the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce and the Christian Business Leaders Association say they are working together to bring unity to the business community. Front row from left are Valerie Zapien, Chamber President Bob Calvisi, Cheryl New, Annie Pogue and Alma Jellison. Back from left are David Polser, Greg Haley and John Johnston. (Photo by Shelly Wilkison)

Leaders of the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce and the Christian Business Leaders Association say they are joining together to bring some unity to the business community and plan to host a town festival in April 2014.

While the presidents of both groups say the two organizations will remain separate, they anticipate holding more joint meetings and are moving forward on plans to host a barbecue cookoff and festival next year.

CBLA President Jon Branigan said the proposed event will be a more family-friendly version of the annual BBQ Cookoff, which was a fundraiser for the Liberty Hill Livestock Association. The LHLA voted earlier this year to cancel the cookoff, which was originally scheduled this weekend, citing the expense involved in obtaining a state-required Mass Gathering Permit. Because of the number of attendees, the length of the event, the presence of alcohol and presence of minors,  the LHLA event was required beginning this year to have the county-enforced state permit.

“Our (CBLA) Board decided about a month ago that it was important to work together (with the Chamber) for the betterment of everyone and mend the fences,” said Branigan. “We want to work on community projects and help the city.”

Branigan said the CBLA Board had asked Annie Pogue to organize the festival.

Chamber President Bob Calvisi said the initial response from the Chamber Board to hosting a festival and cookoff has been positive, although no official vote has been taken.

“We are working on the details, so it’s too early to say no alcohol, but there will be a carnival, vendor booths and live music,” Branigan said.

Branigan said the CBLA and the Chamber have different values, so he does not anticipate a merger on the horizon.

“In the past, there has been so much adversarial beliefs that we wanted to try to work together for the betterment of the community,” he said.

“We are excited about this and feel like it will be a positive approach for the area and the community, and will be good for businesses,” Calvisi said.

Branigan said the CBLA, which meets during the noon hour on the fourth Tuesday of every month, typically has from 35-50 in attendance. He said the CBLA has no official members at this point as it is in the process of restructuring itself into a non-profit organization for tax purposes.

“We never officially filled out all the paperwork before,” he said.

Calvisi said the Chamber presently has 70 members. The Chamber typically meets during the noon hour on the second Tuesday of each month at Sendero Events Center.

Branigan and Calvisi agreed that by holding joint meetings, attendance will be greater allowing more opportunities for special speakers.