Main Street looked like a small-town version of the City of Lights on Saturday night as the downtown did its best to attract at least the fringe of the 5,000 or so expected at the Solid Sound Festival at MoCA. (What's Solid Sound? It's right here.)
Some 1,000 feet of twinkle lights criss-crossed over the sidewalk on the sunny side of the street, augmented by theater lights shining on two of the city's more elegant structures, the Dowlin Block and the Hoosac Bank Building. Matthew Adelson, lighting designer at both the Mahaiwe and the Williams College '62 Center, set up the display.
The evening, much like the Wilco-curated festival, was a laidback affair, although there was brisk business at many of the local eateries and steady draw into the galleries, if not much art being purchased.
The theater lights were a nice touch.
"We smoked! This morning we had a line at the door ... This was just amazing," Mark Petrino, owner of Petrino's Cafe, told us in the wee hours of Sunday morning after a marathon day. The cafe started with a waiting line for breakfast; it was ending past 1 a.m., with a dozen or so patrons chilling to the sounds of 8 Foot River, a Great Barrington band.
There was music up and down Main Street and on Eagle. The night was mild, the sidewalks busy but not packed, and people clustered around the street musicians, sat on the new benches or strolled into open galleries. Not everyone stayed open to the advertised 2 a.m., but most kept their doors open to at least midnight.
Keith Bona, owner of Creations and a city councilor, said it wasn't a record day, but a very good day. He didn't get the sales predicted by Jonathan Secor of MCLA Gallery 51, who'd bet him $20, but he must of been close. Neither would state the figure, but Secor said he'd considered spending $100 "to get his dignity and his $20 back."
We hear the galleries didn't sell much on Saturday, but didn't really expect to. Brian Handspicker at the Berkshire Arts Colony did note a significant increase in foot traffic into the gallery at 107 Main St. on both Friday and Saturday. When we wandered over about 9:30 on Saturday night, there were a half-dozen people in the gallery — all local. Handspicker said quite a few city residents had stopped by on Saturday evening, while out-of-towners had visited during the day.
This festival crowd was mostly middle-aged, and many brought their children along. Joe Thompson, MoCA's executive director, described them as "rock daddies," with a strong streak of social responsibility. "They don't like waste," he told us last week. "They don't like to see overflowing trash cans." That's why we think the Smart Car we saw with a New York plate on Main Street belonged to Wilco fan; we don't see too many of those models around here.
These fans are also pretty hungry, if Saturday was any indication.
Seriously Supreme Pizza salesmen
Over on Marshall Street, the guys of Guys and Dogs were crowded with customers. Jack's Hot Dog Stand at the other end of Main Street was open to midnight and reportedly packed most of the night; another street vendor on the other side of Marshall had a waiting line, too. We also heard The Hub, which closed by 11, did a boffo 400 covers on Saturday. Supreme Pizza was covering both ends of the street, with a pair of fast-talking salesmen reinforced with Red Bull wheeling and dealing on single slices near the old Moulton's General Store.
Supreme's general manager Spencer Leonard said the proof was in the piled and empty pizza boxes behind their table. "We couldn't keep up with them," he said.
Vinnie Melito and David Lewis of Guys and Dogs, said they'd spoken to people from as far away as California and the feedback had been positive about the city and the Berkshires. "One guy said 'this place is jewel,'" said Lewis.
It wasn't just the out-of-towners impressed on Saturday. We met a young resident named Paul Oparowski who was chatting up pretty much anyone to find out where they were from and what they thought. "Everyone's been so friendly," he said, adding he hoped more events like this would continue. "It was awesome."
Our reporter Patrick on the job at MoCA
For all the focus on Solid Sound, the real drivers of the early evening were people from right here. They were on the street and in the shops and resaturants. "It proved we could do it ourselves," said Secor.
We know lots of other places were open — Christo's, Village, Red Sauce and the Richmond Grille among them — but didn't make it that far. There was a farmers' market on Eagle Street in the morning we missed because we were busy chasing some great deals at the townwide tag sale in Adams. If any readers have info on how other venues did, tell us about them.
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It was a fun weekend, and we especially enjoyed the farmers/artists market on Saturday morning. Especially great to see the mix & interaction of both Wilco-out-of-town types and locals who hadn't happened into the galleries. It seems more friendly, somehow, to interact with our neighbors in an open tent downtown, rather than hoping they'll turn up in our gallery space, someday. Bringing our paintings of North Adams scenes onto the streets of North Adams, and chatting about their history with local people was a terrific experience, and I hope we'll be able to repeat that.
However, what I think didn't really work was getting Wilco people to Main street and the local businesses. It sounds like the festival food and drink offerings were fairly comprehensive and well-priced, not leaving much incentive for people to explore the town. I agree with the iBerkshires article that Main Street after hours seemed to mostly attract locals. That's certainly nice, but if events like this are going to be an economic development generator, we need to figure out what the event-goers want, and try to provide them with that. From the looks of things, I think they want the Mohawk.
The Mohawk was packed past capacity. A few pop-up bars or restaurants (not just selling pizza and hot dogs--which is fine, but we need more diverse offerings--I heard what people were able to get inside the festival...a samosa & pakora stand? wow!) on Main/Eagle/Holden would have done well. But, as it was, it didn't seem like much to out-of-towners used to bigger city offerings. For instance, there was a terrific jazz band outside 33 main...would have been great if there was also an outside cafe! And, despite being on all the maps & websites, our mill gallery had two Wilco visitors all weekend. I had been saying all along that if we only got 1% of the festival attendees to see us, that'd be 50-70 people, and would be a huge success! But 2? Not so much. It turned out to be a great weekend for us, but not because of Wilco. We actually had to tell some buyers that it wasn't a great day to go to Mass MoCA, since there was a music festival going on.
My husband and I attended the festival and did almost the entire Down Street Art walk on Friday morning and even returned on Saturday to do it again! We really *really* wanted to go to the Mill galleries but there was no transportation set up to get us there. I think a trolley would have gone a very long way to bring visitors to the studios.
Knowing that we had an extremely long 3 days on our feet attending this amazing festival, we didn't want to walk that far to get to the studios. We even asked a few people in town if it was actually walkable (but maybe just looked too far on the map) and they all assured us that it wasn't walkable and we would need a car. We had parked all the way out in Williamstown and wanted to be respectful of the town's request not to cause more traffic.
And I'd like to add... we do buy art! :)
We were actually hoping for more to be going on downtown. I think word traveled fast that there were only a couple of restaurant and that they were really packed. And there wasn't any diversity in what the stores had to offer. I certainly wasn't shopping for a mattress that weekend so Sleepy's was out of the question. We were hoping for some record stores, more books shops, and some stores that offered you a place to relax and kick back. We did go to Brew-ha-ha's and enjoyed it as well as Petrino's (which was amazing)...and the Down Art coupon book enticed us to do so.
I'd also like to mention that there were a good grouping of art that we wanted to buy from the galleries but all of the pieces that we wanted were marked Not For Sale! We literally tracked down an artist in the town in order to ask her if she'd reconsider and sell it to us. I don't think most people would do that, they'd just walk away. (We did wind up talking her into it and that was the only art we were able to buy all weekend.) We left messages for other artists but never heard back. So....you have buyers now you just need sellers :) You might also consider having smaller pieces available since most people did not have their cars nearby and were in the festival the rest of the day, not wanting to carry big things around.
All in all, we had a really amazing week. We made this our summer vacation and spent 5 days in the area. We went to the Shaker Villages, visited art museums, dined at local restaurants, and stayed at a fabulous B&B. We will definitely be back if Wilco's going to be there next year! We honestly would make this our annual vacation spot.
The people at the festival couldn't have been any nicer people. The entire feeling of Mass MOCA was amazing, and the folks in town were so wonderful.
I think there is a simple answer to why Wilco "people" did not show up at the gallery or other art venues. The tastes of fans of that type music may not be into art.
Trying to combine art and that type entertainment may not be a good idea.
Oh, sorry--that wasn't really my point. My point was that they also didn't show up downtown. The late night on Main St. was almost entirely locals. Only the Mohawk was packed with out-of-towners.
That said, I definitely think there's at least a sizeable subset of Wilco fans who are into the arts--I certainly had houseguests who were, and know lots of others. I just think that with how all-inclusive the festival was, there wasn't much reason for them to leave. And once the day was over, they had already done a lot during the day.
Honestly NA has no nightlife anymore. No offense to places like the Mohawk but many young and mid aged people want a club or place to dance and listen to music. Not everyone wants to sit on a bar stool only all night. Too bad the Mountain view had to be run out of town in Clarksburg, at least it was something more entertaining for young folks.
One of the reasons downtown wasn't filled with people from Wilco at night was... they were at the concert. Why would they be anywhere else? I was downtown during the day on Saturday, and it was packed with people, locals and otherwise, and that was the main time for local businesses to benefit from this, and I think they did. Once you're at the event, naturally you're going to eat and drink there. Why would you leave to go to a downtown place at that point?
From what I heard, there were a lot of out-of-towners in the downtown on Friday and Saturday. I know the restaurants did good business despite the food stands at the concert. I also walked out of MoCA with several groups of concertgoers who bypassed the buses and the Mohawk to go to Main Street.
Even they weren't buying a lot of art or souvenirs or dinners, hopefully they're going home talking about that neat little mill town in the Berkshires. Word of mouth counts for a lot.
North Adams was the perfect place for this; my wife and I traveled from Boston and kept saying that the town had gone all out to make sure that the festival went well.
We appreciated all the volunteers, the friendly gallery-owners, as well as the thoughtful organization that clearly went into this weekend. It seemed like a complete success.
Remember that this was just the first Solid Sound festival. With a little luck, North Adams could put itself on the map as an annual destination for Wilco fans from around the world. And beyond that, given how well things went this weekend, NA has the opportunity to be something of an "Indie-Tanglewood" for the next generation of music lovers.
Well im a local,north adams native and what i was asked a few times while walking around is...Do you know where we can buy ice Cream other than the Ding dong cart? I thought long and hard to answer this question...Sorry but there is nowhere unless you drive to Friendlys or walk over to Mcdonalds for a vanilla cone...Come on people we need a good ice cream parlor on main st..I know I would be a frequent visitor.
How about Lickety Split inside the MoCA entryway? Do you remember the Eagle Street store that had great SoCo ice cream - apparently you and I didn't patronize it enough so it folded. I bet our new dietary concerns with fats, and, of course, the economy, would preclude a new parlor. Maybe Vin Melito's cart could expand offerings?
Perhaps some marketing research would help local businesses identify what a Wilco demographic is -- and is not -- interested in spending its money on. Rather than selling our humdrum typical wares, I think we should try to tailor our offerings to their tastes.
Perhaps giving concert-goers a mini-paper of local restaurant and retailer concert-related specials might move traffic beyond the immediate MoCA environs.
I haven't finished asking all the downtown businesses yet, but from those I have talked to, all did very well this weekend. My wife's store (Shima) made more money before noon then we have ever made in a day. Great weekend sales.
I have to disagree with the assessment that only locals visited downtown Saturday evening. We went to the Wilco show, and when we walked to Main St after, there was a steady stream from the show. But also remember this: We NEED locals to rediscover downtown. So it's great that everyone came down.
to Hmmm looking for ice cream: "I Got Goodies" will be moving on to Main St (where MAYA III is right now, the old Saddleback) and she will be expanding to include ice cream. Hopefully she'll be open before summer is out... but at least we know that we'll have ice cream on Main again. Hizzah!
North Adams has had an ice cream store for 12 years. Lickety Split opened in the lobby of MASS MoCA shortly after the museum opened its doors. We work very hard to have a presence in North Adams. Each year we hand out over 700 dishes of our ice cream at the Downtown Celebration. We are present at the Fall Foliage Childrens Fair each year at Heritage Park as well as at every home Steeplcats game. You can enjoy our ice cream locally in Williamstown and Pownal Vermont.
We support local institutions with numerous yearly donations including our regional hospital, high school sports groups, police and fire departments, and many many more.
We opened three ice cream stations within the museum campus and serviced thousands of Wilco fans. Twenty eight of the cities high school kids, college kids and young adults scooped dish after dish of our ice cream as two others produced 50 tubs right here in our ice cream production room. We share in the enthusiasm of many who watched events unfold this past weekend and would love to see this become an annual event.
We may not be a Main Street store but we have a large loyal group of fans here in North Adams and are only a short walk off Marshall Street. We are proud to be a member of the North Adams business community, stop in, you won't be disappointed.
Was downtown for the afternoon and evening crowds. Friday night was more than 50% tourists eating in the resteraunts. Saturday breakfast through late night had a large percentage of Wilco fans. Even with all of the folks from MoCA coming over there was still plenty of parking and things to do. I hope next year more residents will come down and see what its all about. Having a busy and crowded downtown is a GOOD thing folks.. we want our shops and resteraunts to have lines, we want them to by busy. Congratulations to all who helped make this a weekend to remember and replicate!
Agreed, of course, that it was a successful weekend for almost all the merchants, and that it's important to get locals downtown. For us, connecting with locals at the farmers market was huge. And I'm thrilled to hear that an actual business will be opening up in the old Saddleback space! Terrific!
However, I do think we all need to be honest about evaluating the success of the efforts to attract people off the MoCA grounds, especially the late-night Saturday. Of course we need locals downtown, and it's great to have that happen, but was that the only goal of the late night effort? And of the people who ventured out of the festival to Main St. after 11, what did they find there, and did they stay? We can be proud of what was accomplished and perceive the event as a success, but I think it's still useful to consider where we could improve things. No need to get defensive--of course, it was an overall success for North Adams!
Still, in that late night Saturday time-slot after the concert was over, it really did seem like locals on Main St., out of towners mostly in the Mohawk. What can be done next time to build on the success and make it better?
Next time, should those of us who run businesses outside of Main Street continue to try to get people to come find us, or should we concentrate instead on finding ways to make a presence on Main Street? Everyone seemed to do well on Saturday before noon when the farmers market was open, and before the bands started--do we focus our efforts on that time slot, or identify other "downtimes" in the concert programming, and try to get something going then?
We can ask good open-ended questions of ourselves as a part of the public discussion, but still be proud of what a great overall event it was.
:: Preliminary Election: Deadline to register is Wednesday, Sept. 7. (Office open from 8 to 8.)
:: General Election: Deadline to register is Tuesday, Oct. 18
Registration can be completed at the city clerk's office at City Hall.
Absentee ballots are now available at the city clerk's office for the Sept. 27 preliminary city election. Voters may come in between the hours of 8 and 4:30 weekdays. Written reguests for mailed ballots can be sent to City Clerk's Office, 10 Main St., North Adams, MA 01247. Deadline for absentee ballots is Monday, Sept. 26, at noon.
The preliminary election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 27, to narrow the field of three mayoral candidates to two. The general election to select nine city councilors and a mayor will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.