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Uphams Corner Street Festival 2013 Debriefing

Uphams Corner Street Festival 2013The Uphams Corner Street Festival planning committee held a debriefing (review) on Monday, September 9, 2013 of the event held August 17, 2013.  In attendance were Max MacCarthy, Carol Perez, Nancy Conrad and Jaypix Belmer.  

The Street Festival Planning Committee began meeting in early 2013 with objectives similar to those of 2012.  By early summer, the  objectives were more strongly focused on arts vendors, information tables and a performance area. 

This event was the first step of introducing the Uphams Corner community to the concept of an Open Air Market.   Event attendance was moderate.  Vendor sales were mixed - some sold product; others sold close to nothing.

Photos of the 2012 Street Festival suggest that the event, covering a much larger section of the Uphams Corner business district was more successful, despite the rain.

Click here to view coverage and photos of the 2012 Uphams Corner Street Festival. 

Note:  No photos were taken in 2013.

Uphams Corner Street Festival Announcement on Facebook


On Saturday, August 17th noon to 5 pm, “on the street” - Stoughton Street will be blocked off to traffic.

This FREE street festival as one of its goals helps spur cultural economic development in Upham’s Corner. In addition to food and sidewalk sales from local Upham’s Corner businesses the festival will feature live music on stage!

Performance schedule:
12-1pm: Fred Woodard Jazz Trio
1-2pm: José Matteo Ballet Theatre
2-3pm: Aaron Larget-Caplan (and special guest!)
3-4pm: The CV Band
4-5pm: Berklee College of Music

Local arts entrepreneurs will display hand-made goods for sale, there will be informational materials from Upham’s Corner organizations, lots of family-friendly activities, and more! The festival is free and open to the public.

Uphams Corner Street Festival Debriefing Report

The review group agreed that the Uphams corner street festival met its objectives, and was a modest beginning to exploring the possibility of local vendors selling their products in Uphams Corner. The group looks forward to planning next year's event and to incorporating changes based on a review of the 2013 event.

Uphams Corner Street Festival event objectives were identified slowly during the planning process.  The final list in July 2013 were quite different from when the planning began in January 2013. In 2012 there was only one event objective:  to create an event where everybody had a good time.  This differs considerably from the 2013 objectives.

The 2013 Street Festival planning, in combination with the current ArtPlace emphasis on Uphams Corner as a Center for the Arts, focused more on how the street festival event could promote local entrepreneurial activities related to the arts. 

So rather than an exclusive emphasis on just having "a good time," the planning committee focused on arts entrepreneurs along with local businesses that would create a celebratory feel – live music, food vendors and information tables, all from the local community.

As a result, planning centered on how to introduce event attendees to what the Uphams Corner arts community and business district had to offer.

The final event objectives were as follows:
  1. Have Uphams Corner businesses participate in the event
  2. Introduce the community to local creative arts entrepreneurs
  3. Drive foot traffic to the event and the business district
The Street Festival was held on August 17, 2013 on a closed off section of Stoughton Street, starting at Columbia and extending approximately the length of the Dorchester North Burying Ground  Vendor and information tables were positioned on the sidewalks on both sides of Stoughton Street with the stage at the back.  Chairs set up in front of the stage encouraged an audience and performers had access to the stage from the back on Stoughton Street for getting set up. 

The burying ground side of Stoughton Street was allocated to the arts entrepreneurs with businesses and information tables on the other side.  Food vendors were dispersed on both sides.

Attendance The consensus is that 200 to 300 people attended the event with the predominant age group from 18 to 40 and some people in their 50s and 60s.  Very few young kids or teenagers were present.  Attendees were from Jones Hill, Savin Hill and others from the Virginia-Monadnock area. 

The event was scheduled from 12 PM to 5 PM but most of the attendees arrived between 1-2pm.  By 3pm, very few people were coming and by four o'clock, vendors started packing up.

Marketing Every effort was made to market and publicize the event.  While business were asked to post the event in their store front windows, very few businesses participated on Dudley Street.  Columbia Road businesses seemed more willing to advertise the event.

Flyers were delivered door-to-door and hand-to-hand in the Uphams Corner neighborhoods and the business district.  The event was announced using e-mail, social media and on the radio.  According to Max McCarthy, "We did everything we could to promote the event."  He said the sandwich board on the sidewalk was very helpful.

Some people said they came because they heard the music; others on Jones Hill had seen the flyer. 

As difficult as this is to accomplish, the group felt adamant that personally bringing people to attend is essential for success.

One person from the community, who drove by, said: "I didn't bother going in because nothing looked interesting."  Members of the planning group said more needs to be done to make the event look attractive to outsiders.  The best way to bring in attendees on the day of the event itself is to make the event look irresistable.

Additional Comments
  1. The banner was ineffective.  The straps broke and the banner fell to the ground so that basically no one could see it.

  2. One person suggested the use of strings of multi-colored triangles.  Officially these are known as pennant strings.  http://www.expressflags.com/plasticloth.htm is one example vendor.  The group felt that this type of simple decoration would help people walking / driving by to see the event as fun and attractive.  Another well known vendor is Carrot-top Industries.  50' for $3.00 and 48' for $4.50 (different pennant string designs).

  3. Another suggestion was the use of live clowns and dancers to attract people to the event.  A successful example of this is the UC Health Center event at the Strand.

  4. While music performances attracted a few people to the event, the stage set to the back of the event area may have reduced the effectiveness of the music.

  5. The event welcome table wasn't obvious because it was mixed in with other information tables on the side.  Recommendation:  Locate a formal welcome table with a large umbrella or other attractive construction (tent) so that people will know to stop there first.  Distribute programs and inform people about vendors and other activities at the event.
Arts Vendors There were approximately a dozen arts vendors in attendance.  The most successful vendors sold clothing and jewelry.  Greeting cards, photos and paintings were less successful.

The event planners began recruiting arts vendors in early summer and were still identifying them shortly before the event.  Recommendation is to begin identifying arts vendors much earlier and to give arts vendors instructions on how they can do a better job of promoting themselves – such as "about me" information flyers located on their tables.  Also, the event planners need to make sure there are programs or guides about the event.  People stopping without a directory will come away with no effective information about the Uphams Corner arts community.

Event Food The general consensus is that the food provided by the food vendors was high-quality and certainly reflective of the local community, as well as local merchants.  At the same time, several changes were recommended.
  1. Increase the variety of food to accommodate a variety of visitors - such as hotdogs or hamburgers in addition to ethnic food.

  2. Vendor food was typically priced from $5-$9.  Even a snow cone cost $2.50.  The review committee recommended that the event should offer a source of much less expensive and smaller sized portions which are in the "affordable" category.  Examples include a small fresh fruit cup, the BPD ice cream truck, free water, granola bars, hotdog vendor, small bags of popcorn, "penny candies" and more.

  3. Limit the number of food vendors – there may have been too many at this event.
The group held a lengthy discussion about the location of the stage, the sound level, the variety and quality of the music performances and the extent to which the live music enhanced the street festival.

During the planning process, having high quality live performances was deemed essential to the street festival.  Following the event, the assessment changed.  The group agreed that half the performers, while of high quality, were inappropriate for a street festival. 

Attendees tended not to walk to the stage audience area and sit down to "enjoy" the performance.  Apparently, they came to the street festival for different reasons.  They seemed more interested in the arts vendors and the food.  Someone commented that an FM radio station playing loud music would have been just as effective and less costly.

Another person announced an "epiphany."  While Uphams Corner, in its quest to become a Center for the Arts, needs to promote arts vendors and arts performances, holding two distinct events is likely the better approach.  People come to live performances for reasons different from going to a flea market or an arts and crafts fair.  The group agreed.

Additional Recommendations
  1. Holding the Uphams corner Street Festival so close to the DSNI multicultural event (the following weekend) may have created confusion.  Recommendation: Hold the 2014 street festival in July.

  2. Recommendation:  Change the name of the event.  Because the event focuses so much on the arts community, entrepreneurs and arts sales, use the term "street fair" instead of "street festival."  Another person suggested the term "block party" which creates an image of loud music, people having a good time and great attendance.

  3. Recommendation: Target specific age groups.  In the early event planning stages, the group was targeting a family fun event.  Over time that emphasis was "forgotten."  Perhaps more attention should be paid to targeting young kids and teenagers – both age appropriate activities and youth involvement.  Young kids bring their parents and getting teenagers involved in the event with live artistic performances would enhance the event accomplishments as well as potentially increase attendance.

Posted: December 17, 2013     Nancy J Conrad

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