BERLIN – Town officials approved a full schedule of 2020 events this week.
On Tuesday, the Berlin Town Council voted 3-0 to approve a schedule of the same events that were offered this year. The primary change for the coming year will be placement of the stage across from the Atlantic Hotel, parallel to Main Street, so that it doesn’t block off businesses on South Main Street.
“We all agreed this would be the most practical and safest thing to do,” Mayor Gee Williams said.
Ivy Wells, the town’s economic and community development director, presented the council with a complete list of 2020 events at this week’s meeting. After approving the list, which is essentially the same as it was in 2019, the council approved six events that will include the sale of alcohol — Berlin Jazz and Blues, Reggae Play Day, Small Town Throw Down, Fiddlers Convention, Octoberfest and New Year’s Eve Ball Drop.
She said the only concern she’d heard regarding events was frustration with the placement of the stage, which recently has been set up at the intersection of Main Street and Jefferson Street, essentially blocking off the 11 businesses now south of that intersection.
“It creates something of a roadblock,” Wells said.
She said the stage had been set up parallel to Main Street about four years ago and had worked well there. She proposed doing that again for the four events in 2020 that involve use of the stage. She added that she also planned to set up signs advising event attendees that there were more shops past the road closure barricades.
“This is the kind of challenge you like to have because it shows the town’s continuing to grow,” Williams said.
Ruth Koontz of Main Street Deli asked whether the road closure could be extended past the welcome center. Williams explained that in order to do that the closure would have to be extended all the way to Tripoli Street, which would impact “mobility and safety.” He said increasing the length of the road closure was something that could be explored in a few years.
“I think it’d be a very natural move to extend down there,” he said.
Koontz agreed that moving the stage should help bring more foot traffic farther south on Main Street and said she hoped the stage would remain in the parallel location for future events.
In an interview after Tuesday’s meeting, Wells said she wasn’t sure why the stage had been put back perpendicular to Main Street in recent years when it had proved to work well across from the Atlantic Hotel. She said that going forward, she was hoping the town’s public works team could set up the stage on the Friday prior to a weekend event so it would be in place well in advance.
“Moving forward it’s a wonderful idea to have the stage there,” she said.
She added that she’d worked with various side-street businesses in recent years to help them capitalize on Main Street events. She said J&M Meat Market and Baked Dessert Café typically brought their goods to Main Street during events by setting up tents. She also has the event emcee announce various restaurants’ specials during the day.
Wells stressed that even if event attendees didn’t make it into all of the town’s shops during an actual event, they often came back in the future.
“Events are here to eventually bring people to town,” Wells said. “Events are live advertisements.”
She said that in addition to her efforts the Berlin Chamber of Commerce advocated strongly on behalf of its member businesses to ensure they were benefiting from events.
“The Berlin Chamber really does try to accommodate its members,” Wells said.