Saturday, March 7, 2009

Riverfront Fridays Idea

Below is a writeup I did showing the benefits of having a live music event every Friday downtown. The feedback has been positive, but I'm not sure if that's a positive I'll take this up and push it forward, or that sounds nice type positive. Read away, and please pass it to your local council member, and even if you live outside the city and think you'd be interested in coming downtown more often, please write to the Mayor and let them know.

Riverfront Fridays, Live Music Fridays in Fredericksburg VA

A proposal to host live music every summer Friday night in downtown Fredericksburg, highlighting the Sophia street and downtown areas.

One Friday a month, the City of Fredericksburg hosts a live music event in the Sophia St parking lot. This event is open to the public and a popular draw of people downtown. This proposal is to extend this effort to every Friday night, making several changes to improve revenue, lessen some expenses, and provide additional residual benefits to the City.

1.1 Why change anything?

The current Fridays event is widely popular, and could easily be expanded to provide economic benefit to the City in several ways. When you are financially constrained, rather than trying anything radical, it is best to use tried and true methods. Here is a program that has already been started, that we can copy to provide an even bigger benefit.

Non-Profit Support

This budget year and the next are particularly challenging to the City of Fredericksburg. One casualty of this economic recession is the funding for outside agencies. These are typically small area non-profits, that aid in various City duties. Often times these groups have access to ample volunteer labor, but limited financial resources. Some of these groups had previously been funded with less than one thousand dollars. This proposal addresses this by providing a enhanced revenue stream for agencies that provide the volunteer labor for Fridays. They currently work the events one night a month, we could now provide them with four or five nights a month, quadrupling the number of volunteer hours available, providing four to five times the amount of revenue to these agencies.

Downtown Business Benefit

The downtown businesses have repeated on several occasions the need for more foot traffic before committing to staying open later hours. Here is the one way to provide that foot traffic, at minimal cost. Advertising for Finally Fridays is already developed. Simply changing the copy to document it is every Friday, and a larger list of bands, or even link to a website for dynamic content. Higher foot traffic on Caroline and Sophia St will benefit many of the surrounding businesses, from either after Fridays dinner sales, browsing/shopping, or business recognition for future sales.

Regional Recognition

Competition is increasing for our retail areas. Stafford and Spotsylvania are quickly catching up with the City in this arena. What we have is a developed Riverfront area (downtown), that in a few years will be a developed riverfront park. It's unique compared to the surrounding areas. If we make it easy on people, we should be able to draw a higher number of people from outside the City.

1.2 Observations

Several personal observations with the way Fridays is current run.


Being only one Friday a month, planning to "go to Fridays" takes a bit more planning and effort. It's not possible to just spontaneously decide, it's Friday night, lets head to Downtown Fredericksburg and see who's playing.


When you arrive, you are likely to end up waiting in a line that stretches across Sophia St and down the sidewalk. Good that there is this much interest, bad that the time is wasted in line vs visiting the vendors.

Size (Cost) of Acts

The bands are small national or large regional acts. This is great exposure to get people downtown. I suggest making the other three nights more local bands, even a few unknowns. Perhaps it would even work to have an opening and main act some nights. Cover costs for these bands should be significantly less than those in previous years. To maintain the draw, and keep a high level of interest, it may be beneficial to maintain one Friday a month of these larger, popular acts.

Local Support

Although the arts council asked for Fridays to be moved off of the First Fridays, in conversations with other Arts participants and studios such as Libertytown, if it was every Friday, the foot traffic would benefit the studios too. The spillover from the Charlottesville "Fridays after Five" events drove a lot of arts purchases in their downtown.

1.3 Proposal

Switch to every Friday

+ Benefits as proposed above
+ A way to promote to a group of people downtown every week (sponsorships, tourism promotion)
- Need to monitor event sizes to see how much attendance changes
- Need to contact non-profits to get additional volunteers

Add Smaller Bands to supplement the large acts

+ on average, this should reduce the weekly costs
+ provides a great platform for local area bands to get out to a larger audience
- won't get the draw because people know the bands.
- Need to create a mentality of Fridays being a think to go do every week after work, or with friends.

Switch revenues from ticket sales to beverage sales

+ Many adults use the 2-drink special, negating the ticket sale anyway
+ This will reduce the line to get in
+ Can re-allocate those people at the entry ticket tent to ID checkers, moving the lines "inside the gate"
+ Will allow people to try out the experience who normally might not go to Fridays
- Will need to monitor overall revenue to ensure similar profits. May have to modify beverage costs
- Will need different color tickets to keep revenue up each week. The last Fridays might use any color.

Move Barriers

+ By moving away from ticket sales to ID checks, the barriers can be extended to include the block
+ Using Sophia St adds to the block party atmosphere, and moves more inside.
+ Could add a second or third entrance
- May require additional equipment.
- Need to design to provide limited IN/OUT for security, only unopened water bottles should be permitted

Added Costs: These will have to be accepted in order to be successful

+ Net revenue should increase, alleviating any city concerns with the items below
- Need to provide security support for each event
- Need to provide setup, take down and cleanup resources for each event
- Will need to provide the overhead to setup the additional bands and coordinate with the volunteer groups

1.4 Conclusion

By providing additional volunteer hours, those outside agencies are part of their own solution. Those able to get out volunteers, are able to take the excess revenues from the event and supplement their operations. Even small organizations will have an opportunity with all the extra hours available. Even if going to multiple Fridays doesn't equate to four times the revenue, the emphasis on lower cost bands should provide three to four times the revenue available to the volunteer groups. In addition, we provide a popular event to draw revenue dollars from nearby localities, as well as providing a regular outdoor event for citizens. Businesses should back this plan, as we are providing foot traffic downtown free of charge to those businesses.

The citizens of Fredericksburg, and surrounding counties, will enjoy having a place to meet friends every week. I used to enjoy meeting friends at Fridays after Five (Charlottesville), and as the band started winding down, we would walk to one of several favorite restaurants and the whole group would get dinner. I'd say we averaged about $10-15 per person at Fridays, and most of us went 2-3 weeks out of the month. Those with children probably spent a little more due to pizza and hot dog sales. It was a nice family atmosphere, where many of us forged friendships with people we would never have met otherwise.


kcw said...

The key is of course financial. I've always thought they should remove the ticket sales, and the line, as it was very bothersome and drove people away. It leaves people to 'check it out' by standing on the barrier vs. checking it out by staying a while, finding friends, sampling some wares, etc.

I'm a big fan of moving the barriers. I've only been to one Finally Friday and had one heck of a time manuevering a double stroller (2 kids obviously) through the line and around the area. Looking back I remember thinking this would probably be just as difficult with our single stroller (Maclaren). Then the stroller brigade ended up forming in the only small little area that afforded the room.

While I realize part of the barrier is due to alcohol sales one can simply set up an alochol consumption zone that is barriered and controled. Funny how the city condones the sale and consumption of alcohol alongside kid play areas and kid games. Was the point to allow parents to drink while keeping children corraled by the barriers?

Removing of lines and moving the barrier would then allow people to actually leave using the real exit. Try using the exit, which was the entrance, with a stroller. Difficult isn't the word I was uttering as people whom were stuck in line waiting to get in didn't have enough patience left to let us by.

So I'd say don't remove barrier but reallocate them to assure alochol control while opening up the area. Expand the active area by moving the kid oriented stuff. Get the part into the waterfront not just at a waterfront parking lot.

And throw in the creation of and co-advertisement of restaurant Finally Friday deals and happy hours.

Bryan said...


Awesome comment. Looks like someone else has put some thought into this.

Yes, totally agree that they will probably have to move, not remove the baricades. I was thinking something along the line of North and South (or is that West and East) entrances on Sophia. They just need a funnel point to check bags, make sure no open bottles are brought in, and that people ditch their beer/wine before leaving. In the spirit of raising funds for charities, you couldn't let people bring in open containers or any type. Water/soda would be a staple along with other beverages and food.

By removing the bottleneck of paying for tickets to get in, you wouldn't have to navigate a crowd entering or leaving. Should be a piece of cake even with the double stroller.

Eric said...

Something else which I think would make F'burg a great draw is closing Caroline St. to vehicular traffic between Wolfe and Amelia Streets, with a controlled crossing at William to allow vehicles to cross Caroline there.

I've seen what this does for other towns here and in Europe, and it would do wonders for Fredericksburg.

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