With an added third day of music and some 27,000 attendees through the gate, on the stage and behind the beer stands last summer, the Capitol Hill Block Party comes before the Seattle Special Events Committee on Wednesday to review the 2010 festival and talk with City of Seattle officials about plans for 2011. Joining an agenda that includes the Irish Heritage Club’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade and a slew of Seattle marathons and 10K runs, organizers for the annual music festival, East Precinct and Department of Neighborhood officials and representatives from Pike/Pine businesses will discuss the annual music event and its impact on the Pike/Pine neighborhood.
It’s hard to see the 2010 event as anything but massively successful for organizers Dave Meinert and Grady Chapman as the Block Party was able to add a third day and achieve the largest attendance — Meinert supplied the official tally noted above — in its more than a decade of existence. But some local business owners were concerned last summer as organizers scrambled to get the city to allow the third day — and that concern has continued into 2011 as plans are made for this summer’s fest.
Michelle Cotton of East Pike’s Crescent Down Works and Anne Michelson Properties sent an e-mail to Pike/Pine business owners about Wednesday’s meeting encouraging their feedback:
It will be important for the neighborhood to come together to discuss how this event impacts our lives and our livelihoods so that that information can be taken into account by the committee when making their decisions regarding the length and format of this huge event. We would like to encourage you to attend and be heard.
Cotton, who will speak at Wednesday’s meeting, could not reply to questions from CHS but Anne Michelson tells us she is eager for PIke/Pine businesses to have a say in shaping the Block Party — and that shaping should start with a move to the Bobby Morris playfield in Cal Anderson Park:
We are really glad that we are finally getting a say in this. A lot of our small retail in the block party area are seriously hurt by this event. we are hoping that it can happen on Pine and in the Bobby Morris playfield and that it is only Friday afternoon and Saturday, not Sunday. But if somehow that can’t happen and it does happen on Pike, the affected retail needs to be reimbursed. This is a for-profit event and our small alternative type businesses are getting clocked. There is only 15 minutes allotted for us at this meeting, but we are hoping that Michelle can say her piece.
Michelson notes that she organized the first Block Party in 1993 — we wrongly pegged the year to 1997 here — when she owned the skateboard shop at 11th and Pike. “It was a free summer party for our alternative neighborhood, don’t know what happened!” she writes.
The Block Party’s Meinert (who also owns
Neumos (see comment) and CHS advertiser Big Mario’s Pizza among other food, drink and music ventures in the city) says he is aware of the criticism and also hopes to improve the Block Party in 2011.
“My goal for this year is to work on ways to make the festival a better experience for those attending, which will mean more money spent on production, signage, and probably fewer tickets sold,” Meinert tells us.
He also provided his take on the Special Events Committee process that will start playing out with Wednesday’s meeting:
Usually these meetings review the permit application, review the previous year, discuss the next year, then set some parameters for getting the permit. They are open to the public and anyone who wants to can show up and tell how the support or object to the event. Typically only people with objections show up, and I expect some to as at least one neighborhood person (who wasn’t at the festival) has been organizing local businesses to attend and oppose the event.
2010 was an experiment on the festival having 3rd day. Most successful music festivals have been moving in this direction, with Sasquatch even adding a 4th day this year (we won’t be trying that!). Some things worked great, some things didn’t and need to be fixed. The Block Party is a unique event in that it occurs in a neighborhood with a variety of businesses, residents, parking lots, bus lines, etc. So it’s a complicated process to try to put the event together in a way that makes everyone happy. At the meeting, that gets discussed by all the different Seattle departments.
I expect we’ll set some parameters for 2011 – then we’ll have some time to meet them in order for the permit to be granted. We started the process as early as possible this year so we have plenty of time to meet with the neighborhood and work out any issues. This meeting is really the start of that process. We plan on having two community meetings before the festival so everyone can have plenty of input.
My desire going in to the meeting is to make as many people happy with the festival as possible. Certain people in the neighborhood hate nightllife and will oppose the festival no matter what format it takes. Others have legitimate concerns that we need to work hard to mitigate. Ultimately, other than having a great, entertaining, fun and safe music festival, I want the event to benefit and support the South Capitol Hill neighborhood and its unique culture. We’ll be finding new and improved ways to do that every year.
In addition to organizers Meinert and Chapman and business owner Cotton, also scheduled to be available during the Block Party agenda item at Wednesday’s committee meeting are SPD reps from the East Precinct, Andy Rees from the Union Street Co-op, and Tino Perrina from Ferrari of Seattle.
CHS will attend Wednesday’s committee session. Look for an update on what comes next for the Capitol Hill Block Party later this week.