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Wednesday Night Live winds up six-week run

By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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Downtown Auburn’s Wednesday Night Live ends its six-week run tonight with mixed reviews. It succeeded on some levels, according to Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Cosgrove. But it did not have the hoped-for impact, said Jim Bril, president of the Downtown Business Association. “I have felt we’ve done a little better this year than last year,” Cosgrove said Tuesday. “We adjusted how we utilized the street and condensed it down to one block instead of two blocks. It made it more intimate and cozy and it felt more festive.” Extra effort went into publicizing the free street fair this year, too. “We had KAHI radio on the street for all six weeks,” Cosgrove said. “We ran ads in the Auburn Journal and we had the community billboard (in Old Town) for the past six weeks. I think that has contributed to an uptick in attendance.” Bril said he’d like to have seen more local businesses involved. “Only a few Auburn merchants got involved in it,” he said. “If there was one or two, it would be generous. All of the vendors were from outside the area.” The street fair attracted as many as 35 vendors early on, but that numbered dwindled, Bril said. The mix of vendors was good, Cosgrove said. “The food vendors were better this year — more variety,” he said. “Personally, I got a big kick out of the guy bringing in go-carts. … This vendor who brings in the go-carts for Wednesday Night Live is catering to the little guys. These are battery operated. It is an inflatable track. It is very safe. It gives an opportunity for small children to drive their own go-carts. That was a fun little addition this year. (There were also) a couple of jewelry vendors that have done very well.” Live music is a draw for the event, with each night featuring a different band. But missing this year was the Auburn Idol singing contest. “It is Internet-based for people to sign up,” Cosgrove said. “We didn’t get a big response initially this year. So, rather than try to force something, we decided to back off of it.” Financially, Cosgrove says he won’t know until a week to 10 days after the final evening if Wednesday Night Live made money. “If we can provide an affordable business promotion venue and program for local business and do it without it going into the red, then we see that as a success,” he said. “There is a longer term objective for this to be profitable for both the chamber and the Downtown Business Association. … We’re hopeful it is this year. But we don’t see its primary purpose as generating revenue for us.” The focus is to give people a reason to come downtown. “The more people who participate in these types of things, it brings them closer and makes them more likely to shop Auburn first,” he said. Downtown businesses saw a varied impact. Tammy Fisher, who was working at Tango Frozen Yogurt Tuesday, said she works at Pelican’s Roost Fish & Chips on Wednesday nights. “I don’t see much extra business for Fish & Chips, but I always see a lot of people down (at Central Square),” she said. “That corner is always hopping.” At Pacha Mama’s in the Gold Country Mall, acting manager Marcella Townsend said the eatery closes at 7 every evening. “We don’t get any extra customers (from Wednesday Night Live),” she said, adding that a restaurant sign is posted outside the High Street entrance of the mall where Wednesday Night Live is held. Ramona Lou’s clothing shop, located on Lincoln Way just behind the clocktower, stays open until 7 p.m. during the summer. “I see more people trickling through but it is not a huge impact, maybe because they close off that side of the street,” owner Sommer Naffz said. “I look out and see that barrier.” Continuing the event next year doesn’t matter to her from a business standpoint, “but it is great to have something like that. It’s good for the community to get people out (to Downtown),” she said. A couple of doors away at Winston Smith Books, co-owner James Van Eaton said he kept the store open later for last year’s Wednesday Night Live. It normally closes at 5 p.m. “It didn’t seem to come this far,” he said about the event and its attendees. “This year I have something scheduled on Wednesdays that prevents me (from keeping the store open later). The Art Walk is the only thing that brings people in for us.” Jerry Kopp, owner of Uptown Signs on High Street — directly across from Wednesday Night Live, supports the event although he doesn’t keep his store open. “I would have stayed open for it, but I have a meeting every Wednesday night at the same time,” he said. “But I think it is good for the city. Any family event people can go to without cost and other people can make money is a good thing.” Continuing Wednesday Night Live for a third year is likely, Cosgrove said. “That is a decision to be made after we get the final numbers and get feedback — what is the sense of the vendors and how they did overall,” he said. Bril would like to see some input from the community. “The feedback I got was it should be craft fair, flea market or farmers market but it is hard to get vendors to do that in the middle of the week,” he said. “It needs a reorganization plan and Bruce (Cosgrove), (event planner) Jim Crosthwaite and I are going to do that for next year. We’re going to try to make it happen. We may rename it, rebrand it or move it (from High Street to Lincoln Way) so merchants can stay open and participate.” Reach Gloria Young at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com.