A festival-goer leaves Easter in the Park on Sunday. (Chuck Dube/Dallas Voice)


Easter in the Park was on track for “record” attendance Sunday before a downpour erupted at about 1:30 p.m., according to Scott Whittall, executive director of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association.

The Merchants Association, which is in its second year of organizing the 46-year-old Lee Park festival, called it off for safety reasons at about 3 p.m. — or roughly two hours early — when it became apparent the rain wasn’t about to stop, Whittall said. Dallas police estimated 6,000 people were in Lee Park at 12:30 p.m. at the height of the Pooch Parade, he said. That’s compared to an estimated 5,500 who attended Easter in the Park last year.

“We were on pace to set a record,” Whittall said. “The Pooch Parade was fantastic. It ended, and we had about 15 or 20 minutes before the rain started. We had a huge crowd there.”

Whittall said despite the downpour, Gary Floyd played a full set on the covered stage following the parade. While many fled the park as soon as the rain began to fall, others were just arriving, and plenty stuck it out on the north lawn to hear the music. There were even a few diehards on the south lawn — with 50 or 60 people sometimes gathering under portable 10-by-10-foot awnings brought by festival-goers.

But by the time Ciao Bella took the stage, organizers became concerned about safety due to the threat of rain blowing onto electric equipment on  stage.

“We were very sad to see that happen,” Whittall said of the torrential rain, “especially with the three days of beautiful weather leading up to Sunday. … There’s always next year.”

Whittall said the addition of wine and mimosa sales, which complemented beer and food this year, was a big hit. Also successful was the idea of allowing people to reserve spots on the lawn for $25.

Final figures related to revenue and expenses for Easter in the Park were not yet available, but Whittall said the event was never intended to be a money maker for CSMA. And even if this year’s event comes out in the red, he added, “We will continue making it as a good a festival as we can. We’re going to continue to improve it.”

Besides, the rain prompted many festival-goers to head for bars on the strip early instead: “Cedar Springs did very well,” Whittall said.

— John Wright