TAMPA — There are now two groups of Ron Paul supporters working to organize big festivals just before the Republican National Convention.
Paul Festival 2012 is being planned for the Florida State Fairgrounds to celebrate Paul's life, philosophy and service.
Thirty-five miles to the east on Interstate 4, Freedom Festival 2012 is being planned for Fantasy of Flight in Polk County. There the main focus is expected to be less on Paul himself and more on the U.S. Constitution.
Both would take place from Aug. 24 through 26, ending just before the convention starts, and organizers of each expect tens of thousands of people.
But — a caveat here — as of Wednesday, neither the fairgrounds nor Fantasy of Flight had independently confirmed booking either festival.
Moreover, convention spokesman James Davis said late Wednesday that the fairgrounds, which the convention controls as one of 73 official venues for RNC events, had not been assigned yet.
Still, Paul Festival organizer Deborah Robinet of Southern California said her nonprofit group, Liberty Unleashed, has a contract signed by a representative of the fairgrounds, and plans are moving forward.
"I have an executed contract with the fairgrounds, and they have assured me that our event is taking place," Robinet said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.
Last week, Robinet's group went public with its frustration that negotiations for the fairgrounds had been going well, then convention planners said late in the game that no decision had been made, and it could take another two weeks while other requests for the fairgrounds were considered. Paul activists said the convention seemed to be toying with them, and worried that they couldn't proceed without a secured venue.
That uncertainty led some Paul supporters to start work on a second event.
"There just seemed to be a lack of solid plans or backup plans regarding the fairgrounds," said Freedom Festival spokesman Josh Tolley, a syndicated radio talk show host based near Madison, Wis.
With less than 90 days to go, some activists working on the Paul Festival didn't want to end up with a logistical nightmare created by a wait for the convention's approval, so they and some others not affiliated with the Paul Festival began working on plans for what has become Freedom Festival, Tolley said.
Organizers of each event say they wish the other well and do not see themselves being in competition.
"They are perfectly paired events," Tolley said. "I'm personally looking forward to two great events happening for the cause of liberty and freedom."
Advance tickets for Freedom Festival are $20.12 for a one-day pass and $50 for a three-day pass.
The festival plans to give out pocket-sized copies of the Constitution, hold seminars, host a competition for fife-and-drum corps, bring in other live music, and stage historical re-enactments of Revolutionary War battles and the signings of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, director and general counsel Mark Basile said.
Freedom Festival organizers announced Wednesday it also had booked Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson to speak on their first day.
Admission for Paul Festival 2012 will be $39.90 a day or $77 — a price chosen in honor of Paul's 77th birthday on Aug. 20 — for all three days.
The Paul Festival promises music, entertainment and activism, with everything from stand-up comedy to book signings to documentaries, plus bands playing classic rock, country, grunge, punk and hip-hop.
"Ronvoys" of 400 vans are expected to bring 4,800 festivalgoers to Tampa from all over the country, organizer Susan Wolfe said.
Whether Paul himself makes an appearance is still undetermined.
"We fully expect him to be there," Robinet said, "although we haven't gotten a commitment yet."