After WorldFest: Center for the Arts, Nevada County businesses talk impact of annual festival |

After WorldFest: Center for the Arts, Nevada County businesses talk impact of annual festival

After the crowds have left and the booths broken down, California WorldFest continues to leave an impression on Nevada County residents and businesses.

The annual music and world festival, the major fundraiser of the year for the nonprofit Center for the Arts, took place July 12 to 15. Celebrating its 22nd year, WorldFest offers seven stages of music, a world bazaar market, workshops and more over the four-day span.

While official numbers are still being tabulated, the consensus so far from Grass Valley businesses is that this year’s festival kept downtown merchants busy without overwhelming.

Sean Gilleran, general manager of Grass Valley’s Gold Miner’s Inn, said his property’s relationship with WorldFest made its weekend slightly more predictable.

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“It’s Burning Man redux,” said Gilleran. “Because of our relationship with The Center and having our motto ‘where the stars stay,’ we host a lot of performers that come in. So it’s a great impact for us. Probably with their contribution we sold out for the weekend and enjoyed the shows.”

The newly opened Wild Eye Pub, located just a few blocks from the WorldFest site at the fairgrounds, saw a solid number of patrons but weren’t buried with business from the festival.

“We saw some interesting rhythms,” said Wild Eye co-owner Beth Moore. “Clumps of people, and then nobody. We didn’t notice a major impact. People seemed pretty festive and orderly. The heat was so great it’s hard to differentiate what may have driven people one way or the other.”

Nancy Solyan owns Brew Bakers on West Main Street in Grass Valley and said she noticed an uptick in business, if only judging by the amount of coffee beans her business went through.

“I did have more coffee bean sales,” said Solyan. “My 12 ounce bags — more than usual — on Thursday and Friday and we figured they were WorldFest campers. I was not slow this weekend but I wasn’t super busy either. A lot of my regulars were there.”

The actual financial impact on downtown businesses will take some time to decipher, according to Jason Fouyer of the Nevada County Economic Resource Council.

Fouyer said the difficulty in gauging economic successes lies in the fact that the county typically relies on Transient Occupancy Tax numbers, which may not be available for 90 days. The tax is imposed upon travelers who rent accommodations in a hotel, inn, tourist home or house, motel, or other lodging for less than 30 days.

The Center for the Arts’ staff put in long hours throughout — often as many as 18 or more per day — to help ensure a successful festival experience for all.

However, work was far from over once the last spectator cleared the grounds. Monday saw a crew of about 50 people breaking down equipment, clearing out recycling and garbage, and making sure the Nevada County Fairgrounds were left in tip-top condition.

The Center’s executive director Amber Jo Manuel said the fest welcomed about 4,500 people per day, a number that was consistent with previous years. All camping spots were spoken for as well.

“What was interesting is that Friday, Saturday and Sunday were all more consistent,” said Manuel. “Last year, Friday had about 4,000, Saturday had about 4,000 and then Sunday was 5,000. This year it was more three days in a row all the same.”

About 900 volunteers helped the festival hum along, some who have been part of the WorldFest crew for over 20 years.

Manuel said artists and patrons seemed happy, and the overall vibe felt positive and energetic.

“It was four days with all kinds of highs, and the overall festival vibe was that you were exiting whatever is going on in the world and having a really good time.”

While Manuel and her team spent a peaceful Tuesday relaxing after their efforts, they won’t rest for long. The Center is in the midst of their multi-million dollar capital campaign and extensive renovations to their home on West Main Street. Planning for next year’s WorldFest will begin in September.

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at or 530-477-4231.

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