BERLIN — The goal of growing crowds to town events have business owners in Berlin asking for more side streets to be included in the festivities.
“What we’re really looking to do is benefit all of the merchants in town,” said Chamber of Commerce President Elaine Brady.
According to Brady, more businesses are hoping to get involved with town sponsored festivals and celebrations because Berlin has had a strong turnout for events over the last 12 months.
The trend began with the town’s inaugural New Year’s Eve celebration last December, where more than 1,000 visitors crowded into the downtown area to watch the ball drop. The size of the crowd amazed and surprised officials, especially since the traditional tourist season in Berlin ends in the fall.
Since then, the pattern has continued up through the town’s first October Fest earlier this autumn. The event drew in roughly 2,500 guests, or five times the anticipated amount. Given those kind of numbers, Mayor Gee Williams said he understood why more businesses in town want to take part in the action, especially those located off Main Street.
“Now side streets have started becoming more and more active,” he said.
The idea to open up the traditional boundaries of established events, which typically encompass a large strip of Main Street downtown, was something the entire council was responsive to.
With the exception of Councilman Dean Burell, who was absent from Monday’s meeting, the council was unanimously in support of looking for ways to open up events to more businesses.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as rearranging lines on a map.
“You have to have designated parking,” said Police Chief Arnold Downing.
According to Downing, the borders that define town events are a delicate balance of parking and traffic. By increasing the diameter of the celebration to give visitors easy access to new businesses, Downing warned that the council may begin to eliminate vital parking space.
Further complicating matters is the need for a detour pattern. By blocking new intersections and opening old ones, the town is responsible for making sure that events don’t create impassible traffic barriers or cut off other streets.
Chamber Executive Director Olive Mawyer also worried about cutting people off by redistricting events. She reminded the council that the town has a responsibility to all businesses in Berlin, even those who don’t want to be involved with activities.
“I think we’ve got to be sensitive to all angles,” she said.
Mawyer did admit that there would be some benefits to getting more businesses involved in events.
“I do think it would be great for businesses on the south side to have the same traction of the others right in the heart of the event,” she said.
Still, she maintained her stance of remaining sensitive to all business owners, especially those who don’t wish to become involved in town celebrations and festivals. Expanding too far, too fast, said Mawyer, could actually hurt the town.
“I think we have to be careful about getting too big,” she advised.
Williams acknowledged that it would be a challenge to accommodate everyone’s wishes, but still felt possibilities should be looked into for expanding the size of town events. The council plans on investigating alternate detour patterns with the State Highway Administration, as well as exploring what impact if any including more side streets would have on events.
“Let’s take it one thing at a time,” said Williams.