For the past 24 years, a city park has been the setting for the annual summer Ceres Concerts in the Park series. But because attendance has seriously waned in recent years, members of the City Council on Monday said moving the venue from Whitmore Park to the Clinton Whitmore Mansion two blocks away could provide increased draw and ample benefits.
The council spent time during Monday evening's Study Session brainstorming ways to bolster greater concert attendance.
"Attendance there has really dwindled," confirmed Acting City Manager Art deWerk. "We really need to do more ... just having this discussion tonight may kick start this thing."
The council backed the plan to move the venue out of Whitmore Park - which is subject to the acoustical onslaught of Highway 99 - to the relaxed garden like setting of the Clinton Whitmore Mansion blocks to the east.
"The background noise when people want to talk is absolutely amazing," said deWerk of Whitmore Park.
City Recreation Coordinator Cambria feels the mansion setting will have a more intimate feel than the expansive and open park.
Moving concerts to the mansion could open the door for concert goers to bring their own alcoholic beverages to sip while listening to music. Vice Mayor Ken Lane said he feels the mansion is a better venue for alcohol use than the park. The mansion and its kitchen facilities may also lend to the possibility of inviting local restaurants to sell and serve meals, said Councilman Bret Durossette.
Vice Mayor Ken Lane said he liked the idea of inviting service clubs to host concerts.
Besides the venue change and permitting alcohol, Pollinger offered suggestions that include "hiring bands with a larger following," starting the 2014 concerts series in early May and running through July, holding a simultaneous farmer's market and moving concerts from Tuesday evenings to Thursdays or Fridays.
Pollinger said the city may have to spend more than $300 for a gig as a way to hire the $500 to $600 bands that have draw like that experienced at Graceada Park in Modesto.
Some of the changes discussed may not take place for the concert series which starts this June. At least three of the "core" music groups have already been booked, she said.
The council wants to see a committee reinstituted to help Pollinger organize the annual summer Concerts series. In recent years the effort has fallen solely on the shoulders of Pollinger who called herself a "one man show."
Durossette suggested possibly incorporating an occasional movie night into the series similar to one pulled off by the Ceres Rotary Club several years ago.
Pollinger said she would like to find a way to involve children's groups performing at concerts which has been a proven way to bring out families. Likewise, the city would like to keep Church Night to keep local church music groups performing, but needs to find someone willing to head it up since former mayor Barbara Hinton has been sidelined by physical limitations.
DeWerk received council permission for city staff to use "some creativity" in making changes this year as well as next. He also suggested the city may get out the word about concerts through the 1,200 followers on the Ceres Police Department Facebook page.
The city uses $2,000 a year of funds paid by downtown merchants through the Ceres Downtown Revitalization Area Board (CDRAB) to advertise the concerts. But Pollinger noted that "no matter how much advertising we do... it really comes down to word of mouth."