Reborn Black & White Affaire generates smaller, quieter event

Ttcket sales estimated at less than 1,000; no arrests or law enforcement incidents
By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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It was smaller and quieter than in years past, but Auburn Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bruce Cosgrove says the revived Black & White Affaire achieved the community feel organizers envisioned. “This actually worked,” he said Monday. “It worked well. ... We wanted it to be a community celebration and it definitely was that. There were people from out of town, but they were our guests. People who live and work in this community invited friends and family to come and join in the celebration. There was no marketing outside of the Auburn marketplace. We did accomplish that objective and it was good and felt good.” Some business owners, however, commented on the street closure’s negative impact on sales. Final numbers weren’t available Tuesday, but Cosgrove estimates ticket sales at between 900 and 1,000 — about half the number available. Likewise, he said won’t have final profit or loss figures until all of the invoices come in, which could take several weeks. “It will be very, very close,” he said. “We could have lost money, but we don’t know that we did.” And although it’s way too early to start planning for next year, “at this point today, we have every intention of doing it again next year,” he said. Most of the expenses for the dance party came out of the chamber’s budget, including pay for six Auburn Police Department officers who provided security. It proved to be an uneventful evening for them. Police Chief John Ruffcorn said the only incident actually had nothing to do with law enforcement. “It was medical aid that had to do with a young lady who had drank too much,” he said “There were no other issues.” Costs for some support services, such as barriers and traffic control, were borne by the city of Auburn, as they are for other events throughout the year, Cosgrove said. A call to the city for an estimate of those costs was not returned Monday. Among the big-ticket items the chamber pays for are entertainment, staging, lighting and sound. “You rent stages and hire people to put up the stages,” Cosgrove said. “The special lighting and special effects are contracted for and brought in by a production company.” Other costs include things like signage, fencing, flowers and table rentals to ice, pour spouts and plastic glasses. “There isn’t anyone who wants to know what the bottom line is more than me, our staff and the board of directors of this organization,” he said. “The sooner we know, the better. And we can’t wait to find out. But we can’t get there any faster until we get the invoices and pay for them.” The chamber relies on donations to ease some of the financial burden. “One of the three companies we worked with for staging, lighting and sound donated some services and equipment,” he said. “Our local sign company donated some of the signs. Restaurants donated all of the food. About 130 volunteers donated time. They spent several hours a week for weeks in this office printing materials, helping us stuff envelopes, making contact with restaurants and following up with supplies. That night, in addition to paid security, we had volunteer security and people who took tickets, checked IDs and put on wrist bands. That’s the real satisfaction in doing these events. You are doing something for the community, about the community and done by people who really care about the community.” The overall effect really showed all that effort. “We couldn’t have asked for better weather,” Cosgrove said. “People who came had a wonderful time. The decorations and special lighting in Central Square (set a great tone). We worked with the city to do some special effects with streetlights and that came off really well. The entertainment was great and we are really happy with the restaurants that came out and donated food for the evening. With today’s world and today’s economy, they went over the top. We are really grateful for their support.” In Downtown Auburn Monday, the barriers were gone, fencing down and debris taken way as businesses along that stretch of Lincoln Way got back to normal hours. At Ro Sham Bo, owner Jessica Woods closed her store for the day Saturday. “I didn’t even bother because the barrier was up,” she said. The closure impacted the busiest part of her week, especially because work on the stage that was set up directly in front of her store began Friday. “I would like to have had a notice from the chamber that work was starting the day before,” she said. “I knew businesses would be impacted Saturday, but I didn’t realize it would also be the day before. It was frustrating not to be informed when it was right in front of my business.” Next door at Kat’s Kountry Korner, owner Kat Stewart also kept her store closed Saturday, which she said did have an impact on sales. But she and her husband did attend the Black & White Affaire — their first time at the event. If it is held next year, she’d said she’d like to see “contests and games to get people to participate.” Margareta Swann, owner of downtown’s Golden Swann Jewelry & Collectibles, had planned to remain in her store to keep an eye on things until the event ended, but found that was not necessary. “I went home at 10 p.m.,” she said. “I came back (from an errand) and it was rather quiet, so I went home.” Despite this year’s more subdued atmosphere, Swann still would like to see it moved to another location, “because it still closes the street on a Saturday when people who have a job and can afford to shop go shopping.” At Marilyn’s Fashion-a-tions, a block away, owner Marilyn Welz said Saturday turned out to be a great sales day. Her shop featured a Black & White theme display window and she had stocked clothing especially for the dance party. “Sales were double the previous Saturday,” she said. Welz has attended every Black & White Ball held in Auburn and was at this year’s, too. “I loved the footprint,” she said. “I thought it was nice. It made it seem more like a community street dance. You weren’t pushing your way through a crowd. It was open and you could see people and talk. Our Streetscape adds a lot to it.” Cosgrove acknowledged that the street closures do impact retail sales, but said that “there is a long-term benefit and business tells us that.” “We hear from many businesses impacted by this event,” he said. “They welcome it. They applaud it and appreciate all the hard work that goes into something that promotes attention to the community and to the business district, and causes people to take pride in their community. And as a consequence, they shop more in the community. So all those businesses who see the value and support these events — they donate space in their windows for our rabbits, they donate services, they allow us to use their parking lots to put up stages. They tell us, ‘Don’t worry about street closures — it is only for half a day. We can live with that.” Reach Gloria Young at