The Sentinel visited 40 Center Street storefronts (retail, restaurant, service industry) this week in an attempt to see how well the upcoming festival plans were communicated. Thirty individuals offered the following: (see graphic above)
The Lewiston Council on the Arts was invited to respond to Art Festival stats; likewise, the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce was given Jazz Festival numbers and given an opportunity for rebuttal.
LCA Executive Director Irene Rykaszewski said her group went out of its way to make its plans for 2010 known to all. Efforts, she said, included attending Village Board and Lewiston Advisory Committee meetings; visiting business owners; sending out e-mail blasts; creating and distributing a flier to all storefronts on Center Street (set for mailing as of press time); and placing an ad in the Sentinel.
In terms of dollars and cents, Rykaszewski said 2009's Art Festival was marred by rain and a decrease in discretionary spending.
She said 22 artist vendors were moved out of the way of storefronts this year, which will allow for greater visibility of retail, restaurant and service stores.
Rykaszewski said the LCA concessions "reflect a genuine effort to address the concerns of retailers."
"The audience and the artists loved the new layout," she said. "I am not aware of a single negative comment from visitors or artists. Without the artists and without a growing audience, there is no festival ... and no one benefits.
"And art festivals are going down all over the country. So we have to balance what is best for the artists and the future of (the) festival with the best interests of the business(es) who will inevitably benefit from a good event, if they're creative about how to take advantage of the people the artists attract.
"I recognize that restaurants and bars may be impacted when the festival ends at 6 and the street remains closed to cars. That's something we would like to work on in the future - how to extend the festivities into the evening."
David Lacki, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, said he hopes his organization will host quarterly forums with each festival committee head beginning in the next off-season.
"I think we need to be more aggressive to get these parties together on a regular basis," Lacki said.
When it comes to festivals and closing Center Street, he said grudges between interested parties are not productive.
"Nothing gets accomplished when you do that," Lacki said.
Instead, he said if everyone could just "chill out" and take a breath, then more progress would be possible.