But less than six months after the retail giant gained approval to build a super center in Patterson amid promises of future community involvement, organizers of Patterson’s annual celebration learned the retailer will not provide money for this year’s event.
While a few other 2010 sponsors opted not to participate in 2011, the loss of Walmart was the biggest hit to the fiesta this year, constituting a $2,000 loss, Apricot Fiesta Secretary Marilyn Hoobler said.
“It would have been icing on cake, so to speak, to keep Walmart this year,” Hoobler said. “When they are here and do have a presence, then hopefully they will hold up to their word.”
Walmart officials explained that they plan to participate more fully once the Patterson store is up and running in late 2012.
“We regret that we aren’t able to participate in the Apricot Fiesta this year,” company spokeswoman Amelia Neufeld said. “These are the types of community events we look forward to supporting in the future once our store is built.
“Our involvement last year was an opportunity to show the community that these are the types of events they can expect Walmart to be involved in once our store is completed. We remain steadfast in completing the store as soon as possible so we can begin establishing long-term partnerships such as these. ”
Construction on the 158,000-square-foot super center — the largest Walmart in Stanislaus County — is slated to break ground this fall on the southwest corner of Sperry and Ward avenues. Neufield said the company appreciated the support last year from more than 3,000 local residents, as well as the City Council and planning commission, which unanimously approved the store’s plans in the fall.
Councilwoman Annette Smith, who sat on the council when it approved the Walmart project, said she was disappointed to hear that the retailer would not take part in this year’s fiesta.
Few cities have given as warm a welcome to the retailer as the people of Patterson, she said. The store’s absence this year makes it appear as if the company’s display of support at the fiesta last year was a marketing ploy to get council votes for the project, rather than a true investment in the community, she said.
“I will say that (Walmart) did join the Chamber (of Commerce), so I don’t see the difference between them joining the chamber or participating in the city’s largest event,” she said. “You’re either invested in the community or you’re not.”
Smith said that even developer Gerry Kamilos — whose proposed PCCP West Park development for the Crows Landing Air Facility she has adamantly opposed in the past — has been a consistent Apricot Fiesta sponsor. Various corporations also sponsor the festivities, including CVS Pharmacy, which has a distribution center and a store in town, and W.W. Grainger Inc., which is building an 820,000-square-foot distribution center in west Patterson.
Hoobler compared the loss of Walmart this year to the loss of home development companies in the past that ceased to sponsor the event after they built projects and left town.
Though overall sponsorships for the Apricot Fiesta are about the same as last year, the difficult economy has created its share of challenges, she said.
“It takes lot more time and lot more effort to keep the numbers consistent with what they’ve been,” Hoobler said.
• Contact Jonathan Partridge at 892-6187 or email@example.com.