Concerns Lead To New Fiddlers Stage Location Next Year

BERLIN – Town officials have already announced a change for next year’s Fiddlers Convention following complaints from some downtown merchants.

Berlin Mayor Gee Williams said Monday that the stage for the popular Berlin event would be moved in 2016 to allow for more space and to increase visibility for businesses on South Main Street. He said he wanted the musical competition to continue to be a successful event for everyone in town.

“One of the reasons we encourage these events is because they’re definite economic drivers in Berlin,” he said.

Williams said that after speaking with merchants, town officials had agreed to reposition the stage at next year’s Fiddlers Convention so that instead of facing Rayne’s Reef, it would be turned so that it pointed toward Broad Street. The back of the stage will be against the sidewalk in front of Town Center Antiques. Williams said that would provide the artists participating in the plein air competition Paint Berlin more space near the Worcester County Arts Council on Jefferson Street and at the same time would give attendees a better view of Main Street businesses.

Ivy Wells, the town’s economic development director, said the same setup would be tested out when it was used during Octoberfest later this month.

Williams said the new layout was developed after September’s Fiddlers Convention, when several merchants on South Main Street said the stage and barricades surrounding it kept people from seeing or visiting their shops. In addition, he said moving the stage would allow more of the artists participating in Paint Berlin the chance to set up their easels.

“There are multiple reasons,” Williams said. “If they want to get down Jefferson Street, there should be no impediment and when people want to go further south on Main Street it’ll be more obvious.”

Ruth Koontz, owner of Main Street Deli, attended Monday’s town council meeting to request changes for next year’s Fiddlers Convention. She said the shops on the south end of Main Street did little business during the town’s premier event because attendees didn’t walk past the stage and barricades to get to them. After talking with her fellow shopkeepers, Koontz presented a handful of suggestions that could help address the problem. She said the event’s portable toilets could be moved past the barricades, so attendees would have a reason to go by them, and that vendors could even set up beyond the barriers to spread things out.

Williams praised the ideas and said he wanted everyone in town to work together to make sure events proved successful for everyone. He added that as the town’s schedule of events had increased from two to 36 in recent years minor issues were bound to come up.

“We’re having growing pains,” he said.

Williams encouraged business owners to work with each other, the Berlin Chamber of Commerce and the town’s economic development director to address any future concerns.