Other Voices: Thank goodness it’s on Thursday!
Over the past months there has been much speculation about the reasoning behind the decision to move Grass Valley’s Summer Street Festival to Thursday evenings and how this will affect the event. As the person who has produced the event from the beginning and who initiated the change to Thursday, it is time to set some things straight.
To begin with, there have been issues raised as reasons for the change, such as: too many kids; too many people in general; the desire for an additional retail night downtown; the traffic; and the parking problems.
Although these issues did exist, to some extent, these were not the reasons behind the move to Thursday. I can honestly say that although the change was talked over with the merchants, farmers and other vendors and the Grass Valley Downtown Association, no one ever suggested to me that the event must be moved to Thursday.
To understand the reason for the change, you must first know the history of the event. The event began in Nevada City. The 1992 Thursday Night Farmers Market was produced by Grizzly Hill Farm and included several of the participants that still sell at the market.
It continued for several summers, growing each year, until it filled Nevada City’s Pine Street in the summer of 1995. At that time, we were approached by Grass Valley’s Downtown Association and asked to consider participating in a project to produce a Farmers Market and Street Festival in downtown Grass Valley in conjunction with their nascent membership in the Main Street Program. It was a great fit from the beginning, but the one concession Grass Valley asked from us was that we move the event to Friday nights.
We complied but still believed that Thursday is the best night for a community event, due to some of the issues we have described. More specifically, it is the preferred evening to create a night for locals because Thursday is a blank canvas and it can change the entire way we look at the weekend.
The move to Thursday also insulates the event from potentially becoming a burden to an already very busy and event-filled Friday night. Friday night has its own character and people will continue to celebrate it downtown, with more and more events every season competing for parking, attendance and consumer dollars.
Will fewer people come out on Thursday? Probably, but I feel no pressure to fill the streets with people. It will happen in time, regardless. Will fewer tourists attend the event on Thursday? With the price of gas as high as it is today, there will probably be fewer visitors from out of town, but our primary focus was always to bring Nevada County downtown.
The only consensus is that we slow the event down; continue to have higher vendor standards; offer access to safe, locally grown food; promote health and wellness; and feature locally hand-crafted goods and art. The evolution of this event is a result of the partnership with the truly unique merchants and restaurateurs of downtown Grass Valley who make these events possible by their support through participation and sponsorship. And, let’s not forget the support of the City of Grass Valley and the public works department.
One big change to the event that has not been noted is that it starts a month earlier than last year (June 7). The first month will take place on Mill Street only. It will feature a Farmers Market, art, craft and a wellness fair. On July 5, the Main Street Marketplace begins on Main Street, and features an exciting Free Summer Concert Series and more vendors and sidewalk cafes featuring slow food and libation. Both events end on Labor Day weekend.
We planned for Thursday evenings from the beginning and our goal continues to be to create a relaxed and unique legacy event that celebrates our community. For those of you who want an event of your own, we made this one for you and hope it will continue to be enjoyed by our community long after we have all faded from the scene. Some people will resist the change, but we will be here when they come around, they won’t be disappointed when they find their way back downtown.
See you on the thoroughfare!
Ray Diggins is the director of the Grass Valley Thursday Night Marketplace and lives in Nevada City.
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