The Fremocentrist.com Art Inventory

Review, & Respect, For The Fremont Solstice

by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 23 June 2016

 

Hopefully a sunny Sunday saved Fremont Solstice Fair vendors from dire financial straits.  Photo by Adrian Laney, 2016

Hopefully a sunny Sunday saved Fremont Solstice Fair vendors from dire financial straits. Photo by Adrian Laney, 2016

Last weekend, Fremont celebrated itself, with all kinds of art, and a few thousand of our closest friends and greatest fans.

This was the 45th Annual Fremont Fair, and the 28th Fremont Arts Council Solstice Parade – and, with some luck, generous donors, and a whole lotta hard work, both will return next year for another go ‘round.

As everyone involved – dozens of staffers, and hundreds of volunteers – rest and recover, Fremocentrist wanted to assess what happened, and to ask your input on what we want to see for next year.

Better Weather, Please

“I call it the God factor,” said Drew Greer, an owner of Ballard Brothers Seafood & Burgers, a regular Fremont Solstice Fair vendor, and Seattle Art Cars Blowout participant/supporter.  On Saturday, Parade day, bad weather (intermittent rain storms, and below average temperatures,) severely curbed attendance, and vendor sales.  It’s always a risk with outdoor festivals, Greer acknowledged.

In spite of a rainy road, enthusiastic Parade watchers lined the road to roll the ball.  Photo by Adrian Laney, 2016

In spite of a rainy road, enthusiastic Parade watchers lined the road to roll the ball. Photo by Adrian Laney, 2016

According to Phil Megenhardt, Creative Director for Bold Hat Productions, the Fremont Solstice Fair begins and ends with its vendors.  In a recent Fremocentrist.com column, he said, “these will always be a major part of the Fair.  Shopping is still our first thing.  80% of the budget comes from the vendors.” Unfortunately, if bad weather keeps shoppers away, vendors may be discouraged enough not to return.

Luckily, for most craft booth vendors, Sunday is the prime shopping day.  Saturday draws hordes of people, to watch the Parade and drink beer, and interfere with serious shopping.  This year, the weather turned fair and fine for Sunday, and it may have saved some vendors, although one food vendor told me that he may have worked the event at a financial loss.

The day after the Fair, Megenhardt acknowledged that “Sunday kills it for vendors,” and most of those he talked to were thrilled.  However, he has also previously reported that the number of vendors selling at fairs and festivals has been dropping.  According to Megenhardt, area restaurants – particularly Norm’s Eatery & Ale House – also saw lower numbers from past years, but he was assured that Saturday of the Fair still delivers to them their best day of business of the year.

For the Solstice Parade, bad weather can cause problems, but I heard more about the benefits.  The wetter it is, the smaller and more concentrated the audience.  Those who show up tend to be more appreciative, and more accommodating.  To put it bluntly, we in the audience prefer it when the drunks and dilettantes, who only go to heckle and shove, stay home.

While no official count has been published, it seemed that more people made more effort among the painted cyclists in 2016.  Photo by Adrian Laney

While no official count has been published, it seemed that more people made more effort among the painted cyclists in 2016. Photo by Adrian Laney

Yet, when wet weather cuts down the riders in the Solstice Cyclists squad, there are fewer riders donating to the Parade.  The wet weather could also cut down audience donations to the Fremont Arts Council (FAC,) although so far FAC Board President Susan Harper has reported that their collections, “did well.  We’re on target.”  She’s promised a full community report on their fundraising to come.

Over all, Megenhardt heard, and so did I, from neighbors, of the Fair and the Parade, that enjoyed the noticeable drop in the numbers of aggressive, alcohol-fueled, and/or genetic jerks causing trouble before, after and during the celebrations.  Despite reports about visitors parking in front of driveways, fewer party poopers seemed to have visited the Fair this year.

Return Performance – Fair

“I’m happy with the weekend,” Megenhardt said, as the sun rose on June 20th, the actual summer solstice, “We plan for rain.  I think the weekend was fantastic!  The crowds were fantastic!”  According to a Bold Hat staffer, when torrential rain fell around 6p on Saturday, rather than fleeing for cars, or homes, many people enjoying the Solstice Music Festival just kept dancing.

“Our intention is to grow that,” Megenhardt reported about the free music stages, “I thought it was great that people were dancing.”  He also plans to keep the Fremont Solstice Fair going, even if the higher city fees result in a financial loss for the event.  “I’m not going anywhere,” he said.  The ultimate decision on funding will be made by the Board of the Fremont Chamber of Commerce, but Megenhardt sounded hopeful.  “Our beer garden sold as much as we did last year,” he observed.

The Rotary bouncy houses - a fundraiser for literacy programs at B.F. Day School - found a new home along the Ship Canal at the Fremont Fair.  Photo by Adrian Laney, Jun '16

The Rotary bouncy houses – a fundraiser for literacy programs at B.F. Day School – found a new home along the Ship Canal at the Fremont Fair. Photo by Adrian Laney, Jun ’16

Megenhardt also reported that some of the small changes made to the Fair layout went over well.  The Seattle Art Cars returned, after two years, to the North 35th St lot of the Burke Building – to the pleasure of many car-tists.  Bold Hat also filled N 35th with vendors – more than ever before – and as Megenhardt observed, “I thought it looked fantastic.”  The Rotary Club of Fremont were relocated, with their fundraising bouncy houses, to the canal parking lot, and several Rotarians said they enjoyed the calmer, contained environment for the children.

Return Performance – Solstice Parade

Best of all changes in 2016 were the positive reports on the Solstice Parade, and the FAC.  “I thought it went wonderfully,” Tara Shuttleworth, the only staffer working this year’s Parade, said.  She worked in coordination with a volunteer FAC leadership team, identified by Harper identified as herself, Linda Greenway, Balou De La Rosa, Norma Baum and Maque daVis.

With better pacing this year, the FAC Solstice Parade delivered just as much whizz and bang, in much less time.  Photo by Adrian Laney, Jun '16

With better pacing this year, the FAC Solstice Parade delivered just as much whizz and bang, in much less time. Photo by Adrian Laney, Jun ’16

“I think it was a success,” Harper observed, on the Parade and the significant changes made to the way the FAC produces the event.  She praised the way Shuttleworth worked with the ensembles, and helped volunteers.  For her part, Shuttleworth praised the hard work of the FAC leadership.  “I think they did a great job,” she said, “We all worked well together.”

Next year, Shuttleworth hopes they can start preparation and outreach earlier, and Harper looks forward to more successful partnerships.  From the involvement of Honk! Fest West as entertainment, to Ignition Northwest’s help on the beer garden, to the efforts of Sustainable Ballard operating an information booth, the Solstice Celebration (after the Parade) at Gasworks Park brought the day to an easy, and financially successful, close.

“I like the direction it is going,” Shuttleworth said, “We can keep this organization strong.”

The love of the Art Cars display continued at the 2016 Fremont Solstice.  Photo by Adrian Laney, Jun '16

The love of the Art Cars display continued at the 2016 Fremont Solstice. Photo by Adrian Laney, Jun ’16

With Your Input

While Megenhardt spoke positively about the three-day festival, he did encourage those with complaints, concerns or comments to contact him at phil@boldhatproductions.com or 206/633-0422 ext 6.

Those who want to give input on the Fair directly to the Fremont Chamber, which hires Bold Hat to produce the event, can attend the Chamber Board Meeting on June 29th at 8:30a in the conference room at the Chamber offices above LTD Bar + Grill, at 309 N 36th St.  Or contact Chamber Board President Pete Hanning, owner of the Red Door.

The FAC also welcomes input.  You can contact parade@fremontartscouncil.org, or attend an upcoming public meeting.  Harper expects the FAC will hold a facilitated meeting, in July, to allow everyone to give their input.  She also talked about creating a survey for those who worked on the Parade, and scheduling a formal discussion between members of the FAC and the Solstice Cyclists to further assess that partnership.

It is very important that everyone, down to those who only sit on the sidelines, let organizers know how we can do it better – and make this annual bit of outrageousness work for everyone.

 

 


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©2016 Kirby Laney.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.

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