VillageFest Board sets target date for re-opening of popular downtown event

A smaller version of VillageFest, the popular Thursday evening market and street festival in Downtown Palm Springs not held since March 2020, could be held starting July 1, if all continues to go well in the battle against COVID-19.

The VillageFest Board voted unanimously Tuesday evening to recommend restarting the event on that date, with the stipulation that state guidelines allow for larger outdoor public gatherings at the time. The recommendation will be considered by the Palm Springs City Council next month, allowing city staff time to prepare a detailed plan for restarting the event.

The popular Thursday evening VillageFest in Downtown Palm Springs has been absent from the city since March 2020 due to the pandemic. VillageFest Board members are hoping it returns in a limited capacity on July 1.

As approved by the Board, VillageFest would first begin again with a smaller footprint, primarily due to the current configuration of Palm Canyon Drive that allows for “parklets” to be used by restaurants on the street south of East Tahquitz Canyon Way. While popular during the pandemic due to limits on indoor dining, city staff said having both parklets and vendor booths on a stretch of the street on Thursday evenings would not allow for the safe, free flow of foot traffic. It is not known whether parklets will still be allowed in the fall, when plans call for VillageFest to increase its size.

Just how many vendors would want to return to the event is also a factor in re-opening with a smaller footprint. Approximately 70 vendors would be permitted in an area along North Palm Canyon Drive from West Amado Road in the north to East Tahquitz Canyon Way in the south, with spurs on a few connecting streets. Approximately 200 vendors typically set up at VillageFest during the height of the tourist season when it stretches to West Baristo Road in the south. The city would need to contact vendors to gauge interest in a smaller VillageFest that would be opening when temperatures are routinely in the triple digits, even after sunset.

For their part, local businesses are as eager to see the event return as members of the public who have been asking for an update on a re-opening plan.

“The parklets on the blocks to the south just make it kind of impossible to have this event over there,” said Joy Brown Meredith, president of the Main Street Palm Springs Association and owner of Crystal Fantasy on North Palm Canyon Drive, who spoke during the meeting. “This seems to be the only solution … (Main Street) supports this plan 100 percent.”


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BRIEFLY

ADDITIONAL SUSPECT: Authorities investigating the fatal shooting of a man at a residence in the 100 block of East Via Escuela on April 23 are searching for a woman who they say was involved. According to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, an arrest warrant has been issued for Lisa Vargas for her involvement in the incident. Anyone with information regarding Vargas’ whereabouts is encouraged to contact law enforcement. Authorities say Vargas, 53, accompanied a bail agent, 36-year-old Fabian Herrera, who shot and killed a man he was trying to apprehend at the residence, 33-year-old David Charles Spann. Herrera was arrested on suspicion of murder after the shooting. He is expected to face murder charges today during his first court appearance.

EVENTS

TODAY

  • APPEALS BOARD: The city’s Administrative Appeals Board will hold a special meeting and then a regular meeting, starting at 5 PM, to hear multiple appeals of decisions about vacation rentals in the city. The agenda and related documents, as well as how to view the meeting online, can be found here.
  • PLANNING COMMISSION: The city’s Planning Commission meets at 5:30 PM via Zoom. The agenda and Zoom meeting information can be found here. Included on the agenda is a public hearing for a permit to operate a new nightclub and cocktail lounge at 333 S. Palm Canyon Dr. (the former Robinson’s Department Store building).

ONGOING

  • OUTDOOR ART: Desert X art installations are on display throughout the Coachella Valley, including several within the Palm Springs city limits. The free event runs through May 16. A map of the installations can be found here. Some require reservations to view.
  • VACCINES: Anyone 16 and older now qualifies for a COVID-19 vaccine in Riverside County. If you qualify, you can get one at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 North Avenida Caballeros, from 8 AM-5 PM today, and all week through Friday. Appointments are encouraged, but not required, and can be reserved online at www.rivcoph.org/COVID-19-Vaccine. You can also find a list of community providers such as pharmacies here.

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