In its second year, the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival arrived. The festival doubled in size to 10 days and added dozens of performances. Many were free and most were very affordable.
Here’s what we learned in the second year of Fringe:
1. Rochesterians love festivals, even new ones.
Our love for festivals is well-known. But we can also be really, really cynical. Fringe proved we can embrace new, fun stuff.
2. There’s room for Fringe and Jazz.
Sources say the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival was not happy when the Fringe Festival launched in 2012, even though the festivals are several months apart. There were concerns about competing for branding in the East End, recognition and sponsorship money. That’s all been put to rest, I hope.
The two events enhance each other and enhance the East End as an arts district. The festivals prove Rochesterians want more excuses to come downtown to enjoy live performances.
(As an aside, Jazz is for-profit. Fringe is non-profit. Jazz – which doesn’t have to open its books – gets way more taxpayer support than Fringe. Jazz got $175,000 from the city alone in 2013. Fringe got $20,000 – and will end up owing the city more than that for police and other services.)
3. Theater. Theater. Theater.
After getting minimal support from the city, the Rochester Broadway Theatre League has partnered with Medley Centre to build a performing arts center in Irondequoit. But Democratic Mayoral Candidate Lovely Warren wants a theater to go to Midtown. Fringe bolsters her case.
The Fringe Festival proves live theater brings people downtown who spend money. More than people who go to sporting events, people who go to theater often eat out first and get drinks afterward.
In short, theaters bring vitality and economic development.
4. Block F is wasted space.
The large Main St. parking lot is catty-corner to Eastman Theater. It’s rarely filled with cars. The Jazz and Fringe festivals set up performance tents on the lot. It only gets meaningful use twice a year. The University of Rochester has rights to build on the lot. It should move on this immediately to add to the character of the East End and fill in a “missing tooth” on Main Street.
5. Manhattan Square Park should be used all the time.
Thousands of people filled the amphitheater and surrounding park for the pre-Bandaloop concert. The city has said the park is too small for Party in the Park. Rubbish. It should be used for Party in the Park. It should be used for concerts every weekend in the summer. It’s a grossly underused asset.
(If you missed Bandaloop’s show, watch it here.)
Links of the Day:
– Three letters you’ll have to know: LDC. Indictments are coming related to Monroe County’s use of these entities.
– Upstate’s nuclear power plants, including Ginna, are in financial trouble and could be forced to close.
– Checking in with Rochester native and Syracuse football player Ashton Broyld.