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Wednesday Night Live to return next year

By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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This summer’s Wednesday Night Live in Downtown Auburn was successful enough that it will be held again next year. “It exceeded our adjusted expectations,” Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Cosgrove said. Each of the six evenings featured a theme, with live entertainment, talent contests, family activities such as a climbing wall and bounce house, as well as vendors. Although weeks No. 2 and 6 saw fewer participants, the other four weeks had “steady, good attendance,” Cosgrove said. The talent contest and entertainment worked out especially well. “Local people had fun singing and dancing. We had two weeks where local theatrical groups came in and promoted their events,” he said. That’s something he’d like to see more of next year. “We want to get out the word to the theatrical groups, such as the Auburn Placer Performing Arts Committee and others to come out and promote upcoming events,” Cosgrove said. There also will likely be more and earlier marketing and promotion of the 2011 edition, as well was an effort to attract more vendors. “Personally, I’d like to see a few more craft and specialty booths,” he said. “I liked what we had in specialty items that people make themselves in their homes and then market through these street locations and events.” Keeping it fresh is a key objective. Organizers are also considering starting next year’s “Live” a little earlier in the summer, partly to benefit from cooler temperatures but also to attract more fruit and vegetable growers. This year, produce was available only during the first two weeks. At Avantgarden on High Street, owner Kim Wright benefited from having practically a ringside seat to the Wednesday night gatherings. “It brought a lot of people into the store,” she said. “I paid for a booth but only used it the first week because all the sales were in the store.” Wright supports having the events annually. “I’d like to see more vendors that sell unusual things — like artists and crafts people, and a big farmers market,” she said. “That would bring in more people.” At Golden Swann Jewelry & Collectibles On Lincoln Way, owners Margareta Swann and Ben Asgharzadeh support the concept but with a few changes. “I’d like to see it on Lincoln Way,” Swann said. “I’d like to see produce mixed with it and some artisans involved. … You need a real art show and a real market with honey and nuts and cucumbers and tomatoes.” Swann rented a booth for the six nights, but didn’t sell anything, she said. “It absolutely brought no people up to the street for the stores,” she said. “Lincoln Way became the parking lot. People came to listen to the bands. They didn’t even bring too many kids.” Hanami Sushi, located a block away on Central Square, did see some additional customers. “It seems like we were a little busier than before,” said Sung Park, niece of the owner. “But sometimes people couldn’t come in because the street was blocked.” Cosgrove didn’t have figures on the financial impact, but said Wednesday Night Live did turn a profit, even with fewer vendors than expected. “Months ago, when we embarked on this program, we thought we’d have about 70 vendors on the street,” he said. “We had 50 on average up until the last week.” The funds will be split between the chamber and the Downtown Business Association, he said. Cosgrove credited organizer Jim Crosthwaite for making the six-week series a success. “He’s worked in the community with the Auburn Recreation District for years. He knows the community and knows the businesses,” Cosgrove said. “It made it really easy to work with an event coordinator and promoter who’s sensitive to our community. It made it a whole lot easier for the chamber and the Downtown Business Association.” Chamber and Downtown Business Association officials overseeing Wednesday Night Live are meeting today to review this year’s results and discuss what worked and what didn’t, Cosgrove said. “We’re going to) stay committed, believe in what we’re doing, listen to local businesses and change things up enough to grow it and keep it vibrant,” he said. Reach Gloria Young at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com