The last two city sponsored concerts in the park were mobbed, with thousands of people coming in for an evening of music.
As city events, neither featured alcohol sales in the park. So much for the claim of event organizers that you can’t hold a special event in Sims Park without beer sales. Beer sales was, and always has been, about money.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times when alcoholic beverage makes some sense. The Rotary wine and cheese fundraiser a couple of years ago was one. The Chasco country concert is another example. I’m not particularly fond of either beer or country music, but it is clear that they go together.
The 2019 edition of the Chasco Fiesta, starting at the end of this month, will be an interesting transition event. The Chasco organizers have responded to the tightening supply of event parking by making arrangements for shuttles between remote lots and Sims Park. As I understand it, the shuttles are paid for with advertising sponsors and riders are encouraged to give the drivers a tip. I applaud Chasco for getting ahead of this issue.
Based on what I saw at each of the last two city concerts, the Parks & Rec. staff are going to need to look at similar options going forward. So will any other groups planning for big crowds in Sims Park.
The Chasco folks are already contemplating what they are going to do with the carnival in 2020. The Hacienda is on track to open at the end of this year and it is going to be logistically impossible to reserve half of the Swanson lot for carnival rides. I am confident that a solution will be found well in advance of next year’s event.
I’m particularly excited that Chasco has teamed up with the Ruth Eckerd Hall folks to bring Eddie Money to Chasco this year. This continues Chasco’s history of bringing in big name acts and incorporates Ruth Eckerd Hall’s skills in organizing large events with reserved seating. You can get your tickets here.
We have become a golf cart friendly community. Golf carts have proven to be incredibly popular. We recently tweaked the golf cart ordinance to open up more streets and recognize the fact that people like to ride their golf carts down to watch concerts and movies in the park. When golf carts first showed up for a concert or movie in the park, it was three or four of them and they easily fit behind one of the shade structures. At the last concert, there were at least 41 of them and they were spread out. Combine that with the fact that there were so many people watching the concert that they all couldn’t fit inside the concert circle and you can see the problem. I’m sure that we will be able to make provisions for folks arriving via golf cart while maintaining plenty of space for people who arrive with their lawn chairs and want a place to sit where they can see the stage. This is most definitely a “work in progress” as needing to plan for so many golf carts at a concert was not something that anyone anticipated.
I believe that “Special Events” will take on a broader meaning going forward. The downtown business community has been focused on small scale “events” that draw people into the downtown as opposed to the park. Trick or Treat in October, the Shop and Sip series, locals nights, a recent movie on Railroad Square, and the Sunday in the City events are all examples of this. It has been a group effort, but special recognition needs to go to Kelly Hackman, Lia Gallegos, Kira Atkinson, and Casey Atkinson for all the hard work they have done to make the downtown an interesting place to be.
Locals nights deserve a special explanation. With some exceptions, the music in Sims Park has been dominated by cover bands. Some of the cover bands, such as the Black Honkeys, the Alter Eagles and the Caribbean Chilllers, have been quite good. The key difference is that the locals nights have featured local musicians playing their own music. These performances started out at the Karl Reef, but have now spread to a number of places around town.
The Smithsonian exhibit opened this weekend in the old incubator building. It continues through April 27th. Be sure to go by and check it out.
I look forward to seeing you around town.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor