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Fringe Logo SMALL FN 4.10.13In 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.

Courtesy: Fringe Festival Facebook Page

Courtesy: Fringe Festival Facebook Page

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.

Child deaths by guns are vastly under-counted.

The “sell-by” dates on your groceries are useless.

– Checking in with Rochester native and Syracuse football player Ashton Broyld.

10 Responses to Five Things We Learned From Fringe

  1. The fringe festival faces a big risk in the coming years. Local performers and non-famous productions have to pay a fee to be considered as part of the festival and perform at the select venues. Some people are paying up to $500-$600 for the privilege to perform. These groups are listed in the program/website but are never featured in the tv or radio advertising and have no expectation of a marketing push from the festival. The fringe also takes 10% of their tickets sales.

    Eventually this pay to play scam will run its course and topple. Performers will realize that there are venues in Rochester that will host them for a minimal fee and give them more of a marketing push than the fringe. Once these people and groups drop the fringe how will the festival be able to afford Davey Barry or Mark Maron? Two performers that charge a hefty fee and are in no way on the fringe of society.

    • September 29, 2013 at 3:00 pm Rachel Barnhart responds:

      “Performers will realize that there are venues in Rochester that will host them for a minimal fee and give them more of a marketing push than the fringe”

      Then why hasn’t that happened? Are there any participants in Fringe that feel they got scammed? You’re grossly underestimating the power of collectively marketing an event and generating this kind of buzz. Let individual groups and venues market their own shows and see what happens. I doubt individual groups will get as many people in the audience, but I’d love to be proven wrong on this.

  2. Block F deserves some MAJOR development. I’m not talking the pathetic attempt at redeveloping Midtown, that lot needs something closer to College Town.

  3. How much is getting rid of a parking lot worth? Is developing Block F worth the tens of millions U of R will get from the city/county/state like you seem to vehemently oppose for the parking lot they tore up for College Town?

  4. September 29, 2013 at 6:37 pm Roger Gans responds:

    I’m speaking as a performer in three different shows. The 24-Hour plays more than sold out. I’m pretty sure that of my other two shows, one covered its fees and the other did not.I don’t mind the conditions. If I did, I wouldn’t perform. The Fringe has an intangible effect on theater in this community. Some of is is genuinely Fringey, some of it is not. I’m guessing that the headliners generate excitement. (As a spectator I was VERY disappointed that one had to buy a ticket to a show to see the inside of the Spiegeltent. All that publicity and not even a few hours here and there for folks to see it.

  5. ” 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”

    The U of R has the rights to build and will decide on what and when to build when they see a need that will benefit them. Filling the `missing tooth’ is not their job. The University’s purpose is to provide for the educational needs of its students, not act as an urban dentist.
    If you feel the owner of that parcel has duty to develop it for the purpose of Downtown development then organize a group to buy it from the University. Then you can do with it as you see fit.

  6. Is there a time cap for the university or does it just get to sit on it?

    • October 1, 2013 at 7:11 pm Rachel Barnhart responds:

      I have to look up the specific time, but there is a time limit. Four years comes to mind, which means I don’t think there’s much time let. But again, I do have to double check.

  7. Pingback: Manhattan Square Park: 1975 and Now | RocBuilt

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