By Tia Lyons
With MusicFest XXX and the grand opening of the Murphy Arts District now in the rearview mirror, Main Street El Dorado is looking ahead to the holidays.
First, Main Street and its MusicFest committee will hold a wrap-up meeting today to review
MusicFest, which was held in late September/early October in conjunction with the opening of MAD.
While some issues and kinks arose, both events were deemed a success. Main Street board members said.
“We’ll hear, good and bad, how things went,” Beth Brumley, executive director of Main Street, said in reference to the wrap-up meeting.
Paul Choate, president of the MSE board, said Tuesday that the pearl anniversary of MusicFest was a new experience and a different format for Main Street.
“All things being equal, our board is happy. We’re all very pleased. Ninety-eight percent of the feedback we received has been overwhelmingly positive,” Choate said.
“There are definitely some internal kinks we need to work out, and we will moving forward,” he said.
Choate said Main Street expects to see a profit from MusicFest, which was extended to a third day and included more family-friendly amusements and attractions.
To celebrate its grand opening, MAD booked talent for five days of concerts.
The musical acts doubled as the headliners for MusicFest, allowing Main Street to focus on filling side stages with local and regional acts and beefing up other attractions and activities between Sept. 29 and Oct. 1.
Visitors from Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, the Midwest, New England, Australia, England and other parts of U.S. and world streamed into town from Sept. 27 until Oct. 1, Main Street board members said.
A contestant from Iowa competed in the MusicFest-Mac’s Fresh Market Steak Cookoff.
Sarah Walls, Main Street board secretary, said 30 teams registered for the new MusicFest feature, and 29 teams participated.
Choate and Main Street board members Bruce Butterfield and Pamela Griffin said visitors from New York state, Australia and England said they came to El Dorado to see country music superstar Brad Paisley in concert.
The $35 ticket prices for the Paisley show placed El Dorado on their radar, board members said.
Board members also said popular rock group Train a large contingent of visitors from Texas, Choate and Butterfield said.
“It just shows who you book talent-wise makes a difference. too, because people follow bands,” said Griffin, who is also treasurer and chief financial officer of MAD.
Added Choate, “I’m seeing it as an experience on your side to see who you can market in this region.”
Choate said that downtown retail shops and restaurants benefitted from the crowds, particularly those who remained open later and were prepared for the influx of people.
Restaurants throughout the rest of the city also saw throngs of visitors, board members said.
Holly Womack, Main Street board member and executive assistant, explained that Main Street did not intentionally reduce the number of food vendors that normally set up for MusicFest each year.
For the first time in 30 years, Main Street was not closed for MusicFest, and Womack said that leaving the street open took up space and knocked out utilities usage that would have normally could have been used by about eight vendors.
Choate said the situation worked out for downtown restaurants.
He and Brumley said there have been ongoing discussions with the Downtown Business Association to pick one night a month for downtown businesses to stay open later.
Griffin said MAD has plans for Thursday Night Live, live music shows with a free cover charge from 9 p.m. until midnight.
She said downtown shops could possibly consider staying open later during those nights.
Main Street is setting its sights on the holiday season in El Dorado.
The annual Downtown Holiday Lighting Ceremony is set for 5 p.m. Nov. 16 in the Union Square District.
The event will include free rides on a horse and carriage and the PJ’s Coffee Express Holiday Train.
The free rides will continue through Nov. 19, the day of the Downtown Open House, during which shoppers may see what downtown businesses have to offer.
The Open House will be held from 1 until 4 p.m. Main Street will provide free hot dogs and drinks. Santa will also be downtown then.
Main Street and the DBA will recognize Small Business Saturday on Nov. 25.
Brumley said the annual event, which encourages citizens to support small businesses in their communities, will be held in partnership with American Express.
Local sponsors are also assisting with other downtown holiday activities, Brumley said.
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.