Editorial: Heat, wind, rain can’t keep Market Days down
We’ll admit it: There were years when we didn’t love Concord’s annual Market Days Festival. We went, of course, because what’s July without Market Days, but the event had become routine and predictable. One sausage bomb sandwich, one super-cheap LP from the ’70s, and we were just about ready to move on.
That was then.
In the past two years, organizers have brought terrific new life to an old event. This year, even extreme heat and a dramatic wind and rain storm couldn’t shut down the fun. At a time when downtown boosters are anxious about the pending construction on Main Street, Market Days offers some terrific tips on how to keep visitors engaged:
∎ Create plenty of options: There were 180 vendors at Market Days last week, considerably more than in the past. That meant new competition for some longtime participants, of course, but for browsers and shoppers and diners, there was reason to linger and to return.
Market Days also included music by more than 35 bands at four separate venues. This scheme, tried first in 2012, replaced the main stage approach – and it has been a success. The venues – at the State House, Eagle Square, Bicentennial Square and the local food, wine and beer tent – are more intimate and there’s more going on. Hosting music at four different spots also encourages visitors to circulate up and down Main Street.
On Friday evening, for instance, visitors could listen to the Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki Trio, Diamond Joe, and the Dusty Gray Band – and that was just in Bicentennial Square. The Natalie Turgeon Band was in the local foods tent, as was Dennis Brennan and Mr. Nick and the Dirty Tricks. Among the pleasant realities of this newly energized Market Days: too many events at the same time!
∎ Be prepared. Festival organizers knew they were in for a heat wave and planned accordingly. There were two misting tents for overheated revelers to cool off. There were water stations and even some spots to get in out of the heat. St. Paul’s Church, for instance, made its air-conditioning available for folks who needed to chill out.
∎ Be ready to improvise. Organizers saw that heat wave coming, but it was impossible to predict the damaging winds that arrived just past midnight Friday. What a mess! Tents were mangled, inventories damaged and destroyed. Director Kim Murdoch, the city police and scads of volunteers worked to set things right by Saturday morning. Bestway Disposal Services arrived with trash compactors to help clean up the mess. Many vendors made the best of it. And one artist whose wares were damaged returned nonetheless and spent part of Saturday drawing caricatures for willing customers.
∎ Serendipity. Did you know there was a song-writing contest this year? Did you hear about the Poetry Out Loud competition? Even the city’s most long-standing events can use some unexpected surprises, and these were winners.
Organizers say attendance was likely down from 2012, but when it’s 95 degrees in the shade, it’s hard to lure folks outside for too long. But Market Days made the best of a challenging situation and created a wonderful stage on which to show off downtown. As the Main Street reconstruction project gets under way in a few weeks and merchants and city officials seek ways to keep shoppers shopping, this event provides a good example of what’s possible.