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MAD's impact on MusicFest XXX

By Tia Lyons
This article was published October 8, 2017 at 5:00 a.m.

By Tia Lyons

Staff Writer

The numbers are still rolling in for MusicFest, but Main Street El Dorado is reporting a great turnout and feedback from those who attended the 30th anniversary celebration.

MusicFest was held Sept. 29, 30 and Oct. 1 in conjunction with the grand opening of Murphy Arts District.

Beth Brumley, executive director of Main Street — which presents the annual festival, which had long been South Arkansas’ largest outdoor music event — said a wrap-up meeting is planned for Wednesday, a day after the group’s regularly scheduled monthly board meeting.

Brumley, who left town on business two days after MusicFest ended, said not much information is available at this point.

She said there are still a few bills to reconcile, but organizers have already heard encouraging words about the many changes that were implemented for the pearl anniversary of MusicFest.

The festival was paired with MAD, who booked musical acts that doubled as the headliners for its multi-day grand opening — Sept. 27 - Oct. 1 — and for MusicFest.

Allowing MAD to take the lead in booking the major acts provided Main Street room to concentrate on filling the side stages with local and regional talent and growing festival activities and attractions.

MusicFest was also extended to a third day, Sunday, to complement the closing day of the MAD celebration.

“I can tell you, overall, we consider MusicFest XXX a success. We changed some things and added a lot of new things this year,” Brumley said.

“We did hear some great things from those attending, about how the festival was ramped up to be a bigger, better family event,” she said.

The festival’s downtown perimeter was filled to the bursting on Saturday, though a smaller crowd turned out for the noon-until-6 p.m. schedule on Sunday, the day legendary crooner/songwriter Smokey Robinson performed a free outdoor concert in the MAD amphitheater.

“We felt it was a good turnout for it to be the first Sunday,” Brumley said.

She said organizers faced logistical challenges pertaining to coordinating street closures with the MAD events two blocks away.

Additionally, Main Street experienced a shortage of volunteers this year.

However, Main Street is viewing those challenges as an indicator of the growth that is expected to come with the operation and completion of MAD and what that growth will mean for the community.

“We are excited to continue progress for Main Street El Dorado and downtown revitalization and I’m sure we will work with MAD on future events,” Brumley said.

Police and fire departments

The El Dorado police and fire departments are also reviewing their roles in working with MAD and Main Street to implement safety and security measures for the pair of events.

Both departments set up command centers on the southwest corner of the South Washington-Locust intersection, across from MAD venues on Locust.

Capt. Kevin Holt, public information officer for the EPD, said no major security incidents were reported over the five-day period of the MAD opening and MusicFest celebration.

“Things went smoothly on our part. It was an uneventful weekend,” Holt said.

One arrest was made for public intoxication just outside the MAD perimeters, and a juvenile was taken into custody after attempting to use a fake ID to enter a concert featuring popular rap group Migos on Sept. 30.

Ticket-buyers had to be at least 18 to attend the concert.

“MAD put out information that they were going to be checking IDs. As people waited in line outside, they had staff going up and down the sidewalk telling the crowd to have their IDs and tickets ready,” Holt said.

“They did it several times and told them that if they were under 18, they had to get out line, so it’s not like they were not told,” he continued.

A similar report of smooth operations was offered by Fire Chief Chad Mosby.

“We had a few people that we had to provide a little first aid to, but it was nothing major,” he said, noting that the EFD renders similar services at other events in the city, such as MusicFest.

“You know, kids fall and may skin a knee — things like that,” Mosby explained.

MAD partnered with the city to secure police and fire/medic services and will reimburse city coffers for overtime costs that were accrued for police and firefighters.

“I would not hesitate to say that the folks with MAD are very well organized. It was the first time, and with things like this, you learn some lessons on how things operate,” Mosby said.

For instance, he said the fire department is looking into options to improve communications, noting that firefighters had difficulty hearing through specialized microphones when the music was loud.

Parking

Holt said some of the remote parking areas that were available for pay or for free around the city were underutilized.

“A lot of folks were able to find parking within walking distance, and they were within a reasonable waking distance from the MAD facilities,” he said.

Officers were posted at many of the sites that offered parking — some of which were leased by MAD.

One of those sites was the El Dorado-Union County Recreation Complex.

Steve Harrell, athletic director of the Boys and Girls Club, who manages the complex, said that the parking lot was underutilized.

The complex had entered into an agreement with MAD to provide paid parking for $20 per slot and shuttle service to MAD venues.

“There was a low turnout. MAD had plenty of parking downtown. I don’t think we’re going to be needed for MAD in the future, unless something big happens,” Harrell told complex board members Friday.

He added, “I would much rather it worked out this way — to have it and not need it, than to get slammed and not have it open.”

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@ eldoradonews.com.

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