Glendale’s special events lineup to change again

By: 
DARRELL JACKSON, Staff Writer

After a 2017 special event season that saw major changes, many not well received by downtown merchants, the city of Glendale is again making major changes for the upcoming season, including cutting all December programming for Glendale Glitters.
The mission of the downtown festivals, according to the special events mission statement, is “to promote and brand downtown Glendale as a destination and attract new visitors and potential shoppers to the area, while fostering community pride among its residents.”
During the 2017-18 special events season, the estimated budget was nearly $1.2 million and some councilmembers noted council has not met its mission statement.
“So far, the mission statement has not worked,” Vice Mayor Lauren Tolmachoff said. “For nearly 25 years, the city has invested $1.2 million from taxpayers citywide and has not accomplished what it is supposed to accomplish downtown.”
According to information provided by staff, attendance for last season’s events was 286,000 with the revenue generated at $313,486.
“According to those numbers, attendees are spending about $1 each and it is not working,” Tolmachoff said. “I am not convinced the changes being presented will make a difference.”
City Special Events Administrator Heidi Barriga said numerous changes were planned for the upcoming events.
“The main reason is to improve the enjoyability of the festival and to operate within budget constraints,” Barriga said.
Among the changes presented to council, aside from ending the December weekend programming, include cutting rooftop lighting, vendor tents and Sunday-through-Wednesday entertainment in the amphitheater. The city will increase the holiday lights from 1.6 million to 2 million this year and add fireworks in two locations of the city to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Glendale Glitters.
Barriga also added the city will produce 15-second television advertisements that will promote Quiet Nights in Downtown Glendale.
“These ads will promote seven days a week people can come down, walk Murphy Park, and enjoy the shops and restaurants,” Barriga said. “Quiet Nights brings back a tradition where the December weekends started in 2007.”
Also, during the city-sponsored A Chocolate Affaire in February, the city will add more free chocolate activities for children and free chocolate samples.
Tolmachoff said during the workshop that she did not feel the events were worth the city’s investment, pointing to the city investing more than a million dollars in the downtown area alone.
“We have got to do something different when it comes to the special events,” Tolmachoff said. “The budget for other area special events is very small aside from the downtown budget.”
Main reasons for the changes are based on city costs and the return on its investment.
In an analysis of the special events, which include the Glitter Spectacular (opening weekend), December/Holiday weekends, Glitters Lights, Chocolate Affaire, Glitter and Glow, Enchanted Evenings, Summer Band and Jazz Festival over the past six years, the numbers support the changes for those reasons.
Since 2012, in a review of city numbers, special events has budgeted 44 total events, of which six showed a profit for the city. Those were the Chocolate Affaire in 2012, 2013 and 2014; Glitter Spectacular in 2015; Summer Band in 2012 and Jazz Festival in 2013, the last year it was held. The total profit for those was $110,492, of which the high was $45,519 for the 2014 Chocolate Affaire and a low profit of $183 for the 2013 Jazz Festival.
Over the past seven years, the city has budgeted for a loss of $6.5 million and has lost a total of nearly $1.6 million, which does not include 2018 since final numbers have not been completed.
Councilmembers said they had heard from constituents that downtown businesses were not open late during non-programmed days in the past.
“I got calls and emails about the fact that we draw people during the week but nothing is open at that time,” Yucca District Councilmember Joyce Clark said. “I would like to see merchants get on board because we are making over a million dollar investment in festivals and we can’t get merchants on board to be open during these times.”
Ocotillo District Councilmember Jamie Aldama said he would argue the point that businesses were open because he said he “walked the downtown area at those times and the businesses do remain open late.”
He also said, “There needs to be a conversation on the goal of these events and I agree there needs to be a chance and a buy-in from all parties from City Council, staff, as well as downtown merchants.”
At the June 26 regular council meeting during the citizen comments portion, numerous residents spoke in favor of the city keeping the events.
“Council, you are at a crossroad to preserving history as well as the downtown area,” Ocotillo resident Bud Zomok said. “Councilmember Aldama, this falls in your district and if you cut these events, are you prepared for closed businesses and boarded up buildings as your legacy?”
Coit Burner, owner of Bears and More, said the tradition of the events was worth saving.
“I have been downtown and love it as a business owner and person that comes to (the events),” Burner said. “I feel this tradition, that if you take it away from Glendale, then why would people come to downtown Glendale?”

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