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Capitol Hill Block Party 2012: No complaints(?)

(Image: Suzi Pratt/CHBP with permission to CHS)

The dust is at this point very settled. All of the money has been counted, those affected have been surveyed, and most of the answers are in: The 2012 Capitol Hill Block Party seems to have been a rousing success. CHS spoke with festival owner Jason Lajeunesse, as well as Michael Wells, director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, and it would seem that the festival’s success this year came at a smaller cost to the businesses with which the festival shares a street. Or, at least, nobody is complaining.

“I haven’t received negative feedback this year,” said Michael Wells. “This was the first year where I haven’t received immediate negative feedback at some point.” Block Party producer Jason Lajeunesse seconded that sentiment, saying “I think people were pleased with the cross-promotion work we did in terms of the businesses that are generally affected poorly.”

Lajeunesse and Sub Pop VP Megan Jasper (Image: Kelton Sears for CHS)

We might find out more Wednesday night at a community meeting being held at Caffe Vita to discuss the three-day festival:

Block Party Community Meeting Wednesday, Oct 3rd
5:00 pmCaffe Vita on Pike and 10th (Upstairs) 
You are invited! Capitol Hill Block Party will be hosting a post Block Party community meeting THIS Wednesday Oct. 3rd for any one who would like to attend.  It will be an open discussion for community members to voice any concerns, requests, things they were pleased with, etc, from the Capitol Hill Block Party held July 20th -22nd.  Feel free to invite anyone you see necessary. Everyone is welcome.

2012 was a year of change for the Block Party — and a year for optimizing the event’s existing footprint. Growing up, not out, so to speak, with the addition of arts and family programming. Lajeunesse took over as the primary owner of the event buying out longtime partner Dave Meinert. You can see some of the results in our 2012 CHBP open thread posts.

In addition to looking back, Lajeunesse is ready to start talking about what comes next for Block Party 2013 and beyond. “I think the culture of the block party is about new and emerging artists,” Lajeunesse said. He gave the examples of groups like Grimes, and the Lumineers, which were both smaller acts when they were booked. He sees these acts as being some of the most memorable of the festival, to say nothing of the Cinderella story that was Reignwolf. 

CHBP also did a live broadcast of the festival this year, which was viewed from all over the world. “I feel like Reignwolf really benefited from his appearance this year,” said Lajeunesse. The video posted for his show got more than one hundred thousand views in a short amount of time.

David Meinert +1 (Image: Jim Bennett/CHBP with permission to CHS)

For the summer 2012 edition of Block Party, Lajeunesse and the chamber said they put increased effort towards curtailing the loss of revenue that some retail shops in the area have reported losing during CHBP in years past. Making money during the festival depends on what kind of business you are in.

“I think food and beverage, the bar community– it’s a bang-up weekend for them. For some of them, it’s their Christmas,” said Wells.

The chamber entered the conversation when CHBP originally went from a two to three day festival.

“It raised some people’s temperatures in the beginning,” said Wells. But many of the complaints have since faded. There was still some grumbling in 2012 but nothing on the scale of the opposition the festival faced in the past from some neighboring businesses. Today, many businesses like Cupcake Royale that might have found themselves on the wrong side of the fence in the past, have had the opportunity to become part of the party.

“I haven’t heard any complaints from the businesses this year, which is great, because we’ve really tried to do what we can to try to ease some of the pain,” Wells said.

Local businesses have benefitted from increased marketing at the event as well as free promotion in the Stranger which continues to provide ticket services for the festival.

One thing that organizers feel helped this year was clear signage that indicated how to access the fenced-off businesses. Another change was the security personnel being better informed on how to interact with people who live in the area.

Another new effort that appears to have been a success was a walking tour of Pike/Pine businesses. The walking tour was conducted with concierges from the downtown hotels. According to Wells, it was a boon for these businesses. “We took them on a tour of Pike and Pine that was specific to showing these shops,” said Wells. They stopped by Bootyland, and Retrofit Home, Retail Therapy, and other business that in years past have suffered from lack of revenue during the festival. They gave these hotel representatives a resource list of shopping opportunities on Pike/Pine. In future years they plan to distribute retail shopping guides to everyone involved in the festival, from businesses all the way to performers at CHBP. 

The festival was also a success in terms of the new features they added this year, including the Sunday Morning Family Fun with Caspar Baby Pants, the Totally Stacked Video Contest, the live broadcast, the new and improved mobile app, the inclusion of visual arts. “[W]e will expand on are the programs that we introduced,” Lajeunesse said. He would like to grow the film and kids programs as well as the visual arts programs. “I think there is room to potentially expand all of that,” he said.

With good reason. The screening at SIFF sold out and the kids show at Neumos was at capacity with stroller parking breaking a new E Pike record. There is, apparently, a mandate. “All the new aspects of the festival that we introduced went well,” said Lajeunesse. 

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