By David Rogers. June 12, 2017. BLOWING ROCK, NC — This past Saturday was one of those days that many Blowing Rock residents and visitors are undoubtedly thankful that bankers keep “banker’s hours.”
EVERY parking space in town and then some were full. A few cars were parked “creatively” in the Maple Street lot. U.S. 221 going west was lined two-thirds of the way to Bass Lake. The parking garages were full, as were the lots beside Wells Fargo and behind First Citizens, so it is a good thing they aren’t open on weekends.
In short, downtown was jammed with people. Not only was this June’s weekend for the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show’s colorful Saddlebred competition, but it was also the designated weekend in June for the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce’s ever popular, Art In The Park.
Big crowds bring big smiles during “The Season.”
From retail shops to real estate brokers to lodging establishments and to restaurants, just about everybody smiles on those special days in “the season” when Blowing Rock downtown has big crowds of people — because all have wallets. Some are big buyers. Some are little buyers. But in one way or another they are all directly or indirectly buyers. They need something or they want something. Even if all they do is buy gas or eat lunch out on the bypass, those business owners “out there” are part of the Blowing Rock economy, too, recycling revenue and profits with purchases of their own.
For smaller-minded thinkers, of course, big crowds are a pain in the proverbial arse. “Oh, my store is full of people but they don’t buy anything!” — that’s a common lament.
Of course it is quite possible that a particular store hasn’t done their homework or guessed wrong about what visitors to Blowing Rock will buy, but the harsh reality is that not every shopper makes a purchase in every store. Even for those who aren’t buying, many may be taking notes (mental or written), smiling at the knowledge that your store has just what they need and now they know where to come when they have their money or credit cards with them.
Crowds Have A Darker Potential
If we are not careful and patient and keep the benefits of large congregations of people in perspective, crowds also can result in clashes between people and, sometimes, hurt feelings. Maybe even chaos.
Let’s use Art In The Park as an example. By agreement with and approval of the Town of Blowing Rock’s Board of Commissioners, the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce hosts this hugely popular event once a month from May to October. They have done this now for 55 years (more than half a century!) and the Chamber is careful as can be in dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” in order to abide by their agreement and preserve what has become an historical franchise of sorts.
If we are not patient and gracious hosts, big crowds bring clashes and chaos.
Together, the Chamber and the Blowing Rock TDA have done a marvelous job in marketing Art In the Park as a weekend getaway destination for residents of Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Raleigh, as well as their nearby suburban and rural neighbors. Tens of thousands of dollars are invested each year to bring the crowds. The now JURIED art show has grown in stature and appeal. Especially if the weather is just right, the crowds of people are almost magical.
It is important to understand, to even underline that the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce pays a rental fee to the town for the use of Park Ave. as the venue for Art In The Park, so they have a right to be there and that includes using the sidewalks for the approximately 100 artists and any support teams to setup before the event gets started. Many of the artists are there at the crack of dawn. Chamber staffers have been known to arrive as early as 4:30 that morning to get things ready. The artists try to set up as quickly and efficiently as possible. They HAVE to set up quickly and efficiently because they have each paid booth fees to be there and they hope to see a return on their investment. Even “The Arts” are a business and if their works of imagination and creativity are not displayed just right, then they are less likely to sell.
A lot of local clubs and various organizations in Blowing Rock leverage Art In The Park for their own respective benefits, usually to sell things but sometimes it is just to promote an upcoming event. On Saturday, we saw the Boy Scouts selling hot dogs as they have done for many years. Blowing Rock Women’s Club was there, selling T-shirts. Appalachian State’s Turchin Center was there, too, letting passersby know — and selling tickets — for the marvelous Appalachian Summer Festival. Modern Toyota was a sponsor, showcasing some good-looking cars.
Whether renting exhibit booths or setting up on their own front lawns, several businesses and organizations LEVERAGE Art In The Park.
Certainly Blowing Rock Market is leveraging the crowds, too, with special food and beverages. And of course there is the Community Club, the patron saints of the Blowing Rock Community Library, selling used books inside and competing for food and beverage sales, too, right out in front of their building along the Main Street sidewalk.
I think it is important to emphasize the word, “leverage.” In the dictionary available on Google, one of the definitions for the verb, leverage, is: “use (something) to maximum advantage.”
While some of the outside vendors are paying fees to rent booth space, businesses and organizations like Blowing Rock Market and the Community Library are leveraging the presence of the Art In The Park crowds for nothing other than any increase that might be incurred in their operating costs as they take advantage of the sales opportunity presented. In the case of the Community Club, operating principally with volunteers, those increases in operating costs are relatively small. Of course they may have some inventory risk if they buy too many frankfurters, buns, ketchup, chili, mustard, onions or relish, but by now they should be pretty good judges of what their sales should be and how much inventory they should have at the ready.
We are all ambassadors of this magical destination.
Were it not for Art In The Park’s existence, these outside vendors would be selling virtually nothing on these Saturdays, if anything at all. So they should not just be saying “thank you” to the Chamber of Commerce and the scores of artists lining Park Ave., but actually volunteering to HELP the artists and Chamber staffers get set up, subordinating their own endeavors during the early hours before the event actually begins. Those artists are, after all, the featured act and why the vast majority of the downtown crowd is actually in Blowing Rock. Without the artists, there would be no Art In The Park. There would be no T-shirt sales. There would be no hot dog purchases.
Even if those outside vendors are unable to help the artists and Chamber staff, they should be rolling out the proverbial red carpet. Work around the artists’ setup. And by no means should those outside vendors lay claim of ownership to a public sidewalk just because it happens to run beside their building.
People make mistakes, especially those new to town or new to the event. Few make them intentionally. Most often when they cause someone an inconvenience it is because they are unaware of their intrusion. Let’s all be gracious when we are inconvenienced, giving those you believe to be wrongdoers the benefit of doubt — and ask if they need help in any way — because in so many ways they may be just the people who are making your ancillary business possible. In all but a very few settings, use of vulgarity or harsh language is not any way to win friends and influence people.
All of us living and working here are ambassadors of Blowing Rock, not just the town, but the magical destination that it has become.