Wednesday Night Live returns to Auburn today

By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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High Street will have its own block party when Wednesday Night Live returns to Downtown Auburn tonight. The weekly evening of family entertainment, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Business Association, will run on consecutive Wednesdays through July 20. Attendees can expect this year to be bigger and better. “We expanded our outreach program to encourage more vendors and more local businesses to participate,” chamber CEO Bruce Cosgrove said. “We have had a slight increase in the number of vendors we’ll have on the street.” The chamber has also reserved the community billboard in Old Town at the Interstate 80 onramp. “We believe the added promotional exposure will remind people of Wednesday Night Live and cause more families to come down,” he said “We see it as a family evening out on the street.” This year the venue will be in the area between East Placer and Kenmass streets. “We’ve actually compacted everything closer to the music and entertainment,” Cosgrove said. That includes live music, a DJ and a talent contest. The talent contest was a popular activity last year and organizers are hoping it will draw even more entrants this time around. “It’s our own little version of ‘American Idol’ — ‘Wednesday Night Live Idol,’” Cosgrove said. “It is entertaining. It is fun and a good experience for those who want to compete in local talent contests. They win prizes donated by local business. They have a good time. We have a good time. Attendees enjoy the entertainment.” Although contestants so far have been mainly children and teens, it is open to everyone, he said. Vendor booths will include a mix of arts and crafts and nonprofits. There’s still time to sign up and local clubs and organizations are encouraged to participate and promote their specific events. Cosgrove also encourages area dance studios, youth organizations and theatrical groups to perform. “There’s no cost to participate,” he said. “We’d be happy to welcome all of these groups and organizations to be involved with Wednesday Night Live.” The event was conceived as a way to bring visitors to Downtown in the evening. In anticipation of that, a number of Downtown businesses will stay open later those evenings. That includes Avantgarden, at the corner of High Street and Lincoln Way. “We were open last year,” owner Kim Wright said. “I thought it was worthwhile.” Wright added that she’d like to see more vendors this year, including some from the farmers market. Next door at High Street Café, employee Lucy Haddad said the restaurant will have a booth. “We’ll sell cold sandwiches and drinks and the restaurant will be open,” she said. Haddad attended last year’s Wednesday Night Live evenings and welcomes them back. “It was good. It was something different,” she said. “(The town) needs something like that to always to keep people around here.” At Uptown Signs, owner Jerry Kopp will keep his shop open and may also have a booth displaying his artwork. “I do a lot of wood carving,” he said. “I make a lot of funny characters and big masks in big bright colors. I was a picture painter for years but I like things that are more humorous and make people smile.” For Kopp, the event is a good fit for Auburn, “Anything that families of America can go to free today and spend a little time while times are tough is good for the country and good for us,” he said. Last year’s Wednesday series even turned a modest profit. “It pays for itself,” Cosgrove said. “The vendors who participate and come out on the street to promote products and services pay an affordable fee to participate. It is free to the public. The expenses are covered by vendor fees. … Our purpose is not to raise money. It is to promote business. In the process, if we have net cash revenue, that’s a wonderful thing.” Reach Gloria Young at ------------ Wednesday Night Live 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays June 15 through July 20 Where: On High Street between East Placer and Kenmass in Downtown Auburn