Downtown Merchants Announce Surf City' Nights Downtown Street Fair


Read more about Funding Surf City Nights

March 14, 2007 by Joe Shaw from Greetings from Downtown
Surf City Nights

Again, the overwhelming response from people attending Surf City Nights was positive, according to surveys taken at the Downtown BID info booth and just talking to people on the street.

From the downtown merchant's perspective, for two Tuesdays in a row, we have brought nearly 5,000 people downtown each TUESDAY night. This has made the slowest night of the week into a bonanza. With Spring Break upon us, and as we get closer to summer, we should only expect crowds to get larger each week.

Despite weather that went from warm and sunny to overcast, cold and misty as a fog bank rolled in around 5, crowds were estimated at 10 percent more than the first week.

In contrast to the week before, everything was pretty much ready to go at 5 and there were a few more things for kids to do.

That said, much needs to improve. We need better vendors such as a cheese, a fish and/or meat vendor and a children's area with more things for the kids. The farmer's market offerings need to be better than the Friday market's offerings.

We are going to need to add more vendors, more entertainment and that means going to another street somehow, someway. This is harder than it sounds because of permit requirements from the city, Fire Department and OC Health Department restrictions, but working together, we have to find a way forward.

Because merchants are averse to competition from food vendors and retail vendors at the street fair, organizers have to add features carefully. Merchants are THRILLED with the response so far, so that should make it easier for us to expand our offerings, but it needs to go slowly. For instance as a retailer, I can help select more merchandise vendors that won't object to, if I'm asked. What we don't want to turn this into is a swap meet.

I realize some may be underwhelmed. We will have to improve in many ways to keep people coming downtown. But realize that this is a trial event, which the city is funding for a finite period. Going forward, if we want to keep this event going indefinitely, and I can tell you I do, several things will have to happen.

The Downtown BID , financially and organizationally, needs to become stronger and this will require some action by the city, so that we can oversee this event on our own. We'll have to come up with a model that ensure that the market remains or becomes profitable.

But when I see a Tuesday night downtown crowded overwhelmingly with families, children and older couples, I believe we have been successful so far in creating an event that brings out exactly the demographic we were looking to bring downtown. The restaurants were full, the cash registers were ringing and people were having a good time. I define that as a win.