News

Menlo festival: If you liked it or not, chamber wants to hear

 

Menlo Park resident Rick McColloch writes a letter to the chamber. See the letter and the response below.

By Dave Boyce | Almanac Staff Writer

The management of the Connoisseurs' Marketplace, Menlo Park's recent annual midsummer art and wine festival, would like to hear from the festival's critics as well as from its fans, and particularly from critics with constructive ideas.

Fran Dehn, president of the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce, said she and her chamber colleagues are looking for emailed suggestions and comments, and she offered a template: "I had a great time and it was a good festival, but, you know, maybe next year you could try ..."

Some people commenting on the Almanac's online Town Square forum had their own ideas about the form and content of their complaints about the July 18 and 19 festival.

"So disappointed," said Jenny in a July 20 post. "No big Sat eve concert? The kids area was terrible. (N)othing for the little guys. This festival used to be so great."

The decision not to have a Saturday night concert was in response to complaints from the neighbors around Fremont Park, Ms. Dehn said.

As for the area meant to appeal to children, the management went with the Kids' Creative Center this year -- more interactive, but without a climbing wall or rides for the young children, Ms. Dehn said. According to the program, "These young art connoisseurs will leave with their own handcrafted memento." The city's Community Services Department collaborated on the creative center.

A complaint on Town Square by someone named "free wheeling puppets" was quite specific: "No Pride and Joy. Literally AND figuratively," this person said, referring to a Bay Area band known for its danceable pop and soul music.

Pride & Joy played on the Peninsula recently, Ms. Dehn said, adding that they're a difficult band to book and that they haven't played at the Connoisseurs' Marketplace for a number of years. This year, the concerts featured jazz and marimba, she said.

Another poster complained about music and food. "No bands even on the side streets. No kids zone," Chris said. "No Paella (last year that guy had the biggest line!)."

The festival has never had bands on side streets, Ms. Dehn said. The paella vendor was not available this year, but Big Ed's Buzzard Barbecue from Santa Clara was.

Feedback is important in putting an event together and in reviewing it, she said. "You respond to input. You can't make something better if you don't know what everyone wants."

Send email to info@menloparkchamber.com.

"We as a chamber hope that we brought another festival to the community that would be embraced by the community and enjoyed by the community," Ms. Dehn said. "Some of the choices were probably not the best choices, given the feedback. ... Our goal will be the same next year: to bring a festival that is compatible with what people want."

Planning for the 2016 festival will be starting soon, she said.

Other changes

The layout of the festival, including who is placed where, changed this year.

The Culinary Arts Corner and wine tasting used to be on Doyle Street but was moved to Chestnut Street, Ms. Dehn said. It's not that Doyle didn't work, but that Chestnut is broader and more central to the festival, she said.

The beers available included six varieties on tap and 13 microbreweries, she said. "I think there was a spread of beer," she said. She apologized to people who were disappointed, including Brian on Town Square. "We really tried to have a choice. Clearly we did not have a choice that was satisfying to that individual," she said.

Police and firefighting representatives requested and were relocated next to the children's area to make it easy for parents to have their children fingerprinted, Ms. Dehn said.

There is turnover in artists -- potters, glassblowers, painters, photographers and anyone not making music or preparing food. Who shows up depends on who applies, whether they apply in time and what the jury decides, she said.

The festival has between 220 and 225 spots each year, and some vendors take two, she said. This year, there were 222 artists. In general, the layout is reconsidered so that festival visitors have better chance of seeing everything, she said.

Some factors are beyond the chamber's control, such as the unusually high humidity for at least one day of the festival. "We did not have the weather on our side," Ms. Dehn said.

The humid weather may have contributed to a thinner crowd, she said. Exact attendance numbers are not possible, since there are several ways into the festival and no ticket booths, she said.

======================

Letter to chamber

Rick McColloch of North Lemon Avenue in Menlo Park said he submitted this letter to the chamber:

"I have been a resident of Menlo Park for the past 30 years. My wife Kristine has lived here her entire life and teaches at Oak Knoll elementary school which she attended as a child. We have raised 5 children here and now are enjoying our grandchildren.

"We have greatly appreciated all the wonderful activities and community spirit over the years. Without a doubt, a big highlight each year has been the Connoisseurs' Market. Our kids growing up loved all the kid zones and we all looked forward to the dancing and wonderful music in the evening.

"This year our friends from out of town, our adult children, and grandchildren could not wait for Saturday afternoon and evening. Unfortunately, this year was a HUGE disappointment and honestly an embarrassment.

"We were shocked to discover there were no kid zones or activities and no headline band for the evening. It was painful to tell my excited granddaughter there would be no dancing with me. We sat in the park staring at the empty stage.

"You should also know that we spoke to the vendors and, without exception, they commented on the lack of people attending and that sales were disappointing. We ran into many friends who walked into the park for the evening music event and starred in disbelief that the stage was empty.

"To our knowledge there was no announcement that this year would be drastically cut back. If there was, no one we know knew about it. What in the world happened? Is this what we should expect for the future??"

Mr. McColloch said he received this response from the chamber:

"Thank you for taking the time to submit feedback about the event. We are always trying to find new and better ways to serve this community. Your comments are much appreciated as we assess this year's Connoisseurs' Marketplace and look at what positive changes we can make for future events."

Comments

3 people like this
Posted by Born and Raised in Menlo
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 24, 2015 at 7:32 am

The concert on Saturday night is the highlight and focal point of the festival. I understand the neighbors concerns over noise, but perhaps a band with acoustical equipment and lower noise levels would work. Is there anyway to put noise barriers along the two fences thus deflecting the noise to the streets? Why was the stage at Santa Cruz and ECR removed this year?

The one pet peeve I have is why do I need to buy a glass to have a beer or glass of wine? Also, the food booths seemed to be slim this year. Not much variety and not many vendors.


3 people like this
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 24, 2015 at 8:43 am

pogo is a registered user.

Kudos to the Chamber for listening to the public and trying their best to accommodate requests. It's obviously in their interests to get the largest attendance!


6 people like this
Posted by MP observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 24, 2015 at 12:51 pm

Bring the Saturday night concert back. It's a great tradition, and the neighbors can put up with it for one night. Surely most of them moved to that location knowing about Fremont Park concerts.


2 people like this
Posted by Janet
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 24, 2015 at 1:02 pm

We have been attending this event its inception and were very disappointed this year. There were too many paintings and glass works and not enough of the fun things. I missed the man who sells the soap, the man who makes the puzzles, the person who made the kids backpacks and books, the person who sold the whimsical signs-too name a few.
There didn't seem to be as many food choices.
We thought that this year's festival was boring.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 24, 2015 at 1:15 pm

Our family has been attending this festival since it began in 1986- By far this year was the biggest disappointment-

We usually walk downtown Friday evening -this year we walked down very late and noticed there wasn't much going on, very few booth being set up etc - actually not at all like past years. So we thought well... maybe they will be setting up early in the morning.

We were looking forward to Saturday.

When we attended Saturday it was empty, not many people at all, as if it were Sunday @ 5:30 - when the festival is about to end @ 6:00 !

The crowds just weren't there-

Then we noticed how many booths and attractions weren't present, to include Food booths & Music - Very notable-

It certainly wasn't lively- very subdued- Lacking energy - And we walked from one end and made a complete loop.

Didn't buy much- and felt sorry for the new participants-

In all the 29 years we've attended, this was the most lethargic festival-

We were actually thinking if perhaps there was a change in chairperson/committee for this event?

If this is a glimpse at what we can expect next year and beyond- we won't attend.










4 people like this
Posted by Senioracit
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jul 24, 2015 at 1:45 pm

I was on Santa Cruz Ave on both Saturday and Sunday, and the number of people in attendance was low both times I was there. It was a very hot weekend and the tented booths were like ovens, so that may have discouraged people from attending or staying around long to see everything.

More advertising may have helped bring more people out. I saw very little in the way of advertising and found that many people I spoke to after the fact (who admired one of my purchases) were unaware of the event. Another factor is simply that these types of events are everywhere during the summer months, so they have ceased to be special. Finally, I would recommend that Menlo Park eliminate the arts & crafts street event held earlier in the year and just have the one big one. People may not distinguish between them and may feel, after being at the first one, that attending another a couple of months later is just too much.


3 people like this
Posted by Estelle
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 24, 2015 at 1:57 pm

I worked for the Chamber for several years, including the year of the very 1st Connoisseurs Marketplace. We were all quite excited about the idea. Liiz Goldberg was our Chamber exec and she a great deal of research in order to get the best
merchants, artists, etc. available. Fortunately she was able to recruit Tom Hilligoss for his knowledge and assistance in
the effort. It was a success, although on a smaller scale than in the years following. People looked forward to the event.
Kids became involved, artworks were varied, interesting food booths appeared, and enough liquids were available for
all sorts of thirst. People attended, hot days as well. It became a festive event, helped often by fun music. Sorry to say,
this year's event was a disappointment in too many areas.


1 person likes this
Posted by Big Daddy
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 24, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Look to the Palo Alto End of Summer Festival on University and the consistently excellent Palo Alto Clay and Glass Show which they just hosted a few weekends ago for a primer on how to run a HIGH QUALITY AND SUCCESSFUL EVENT. We attend those yearly and are NEVER disappointed. Given the wealth of successful Technology and Biotech companies all around us,...surely there must be a way to "tap into that" as a resource for $$$, ideas and sponsors ? The good news,....our little street fair can ONLY GET BETTER ! Make us proud and turn this one around in 2016 and beyond please.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident-
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 24, 2015 at 2:11 pm

Regarding the heat and advertising for this festival event -

And personally attending every year since 1986- We have had very hot days for this festival in the past- and it was even more so because of all the people in attendance in past years along with the hot food booths i.e. the oysters - it was very hot- it didn't deter people from attending then...

And regarding advertising of this event- I can say from every place I have patronized in the community- and neighboring communities- I did see either the poster and the small post cards - and sometimes both -

So I know from my experience they were out there and it appeared to be advertised.


2 people like this
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 24, 2015 at 2:16 pm

For those of us who work downtown, the annual festival is inconvenient. Blocked streets make it difficult to access my office, which is in use on weekends. It's only worth it if the displays & vendors' wares are significantly better than "loving hands at home" quality, with a lot of variety. Food is very important too. Years ago, their were various ethnic foods - dim sum, Filipino & Caribbean along with hot dogs & tacos.

Years ago, my kids were excited about performing with their MP rec. dept. gymnastics classes. At a specific Saturday time, blue tumbling mats went down in the (pre-median) center of Santa Cruz between Chestnut & Doyle & kids in uniform leotards somersaulted & cartwheeled down the street. All the parents, lots of friends, & neighbors showed up to cheer the kids, who felt very important with a role in the town fair. Beer & wine were served in recyclable soft plastic cups so no one's feet got cut on broken "souvenir" glassware.

In several of the past 10-15 years, it's just been too hot to enjoy spending a day walking around in the sun on hot pavements still reflecting heat from the day before. Weather is unpredictable but has anyone considered shifting to a late spring or early fall date? How about bringing in some interesting food truck vendors, as seen in other communities? There was an African booth at a recent marketplace in Mountain View. The Los Altos art & wine fairs are on a grassy park so broken glass is less likely. Move the music & dance floor to the El Camino end of Santa Cruz.


2 people like this
Posted by Herbert
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 24, 2015 at 2:44 pm

As long time residents (since 1962) we have attended most of the Festivals and were underwhelmed with this one. With no parking on Santa Cruz heading west, we wondered were the people were but never found them. Some vendors were happy as those of us took the time to look and make a few purchases but many booths were deserted. Food choices were poor so we just walked home. I have no idea what the organizers were planning but the plans need changing unless that is what the city wants. Unimpressive.


7 people like this
Posted by No more please
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jul 24, 2015 at 9:09 pm

Like Sunset weekend, Connoisseurs Marketplace has run its course.

It's boring.

BORING.

Been there, done that.


1 person likes this
Posted by Ghost town
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 24, 2015 at 10:26 pm

. In years past there was palpable excitement with cars lined up for nearly a mile. There was a visible reminder that something special was underway. An to be sure join in the fun. This year Santa Cruz was eerily vacant. Like a ghost town. Who would know the street fair was underway.
The event was fine. A lot more people would have helped.


1 person likes this
Posted by Dolwntown business owner
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 24, 2015 at 11:23 pm

As an owner of a store on SCA, we have come to hate the so-called Connoisseur's Marketplace (of which there is very little left for connoisseurs to appreciate)and from talking to other merchants last weekend, we're not alone. My bank was closed Saturday and the manager told me on Friday that it wasn't worth them staying open for the handful of customers who fight their way downtown to do business. If anyone noticed, many stores downtown also close that weekend for that reason.

We stay open because some of our customers can only run errands on the weekends but our traffic those days is largely people trying to beat the heat, drunks or people cutting through our store from the back parking lot.

It's ironic that this Chamber of Commerce function has such a detrimental effect on the business of the merchants who the Chamber supposedly exists to promote.

Let's face it - as long as the Chamber can generate revenue by selling spaces to vendors, they don't need to care about how it affects the merchants or how many people the event draws. If the vendors stop coming, maybe this will provide some incentive to the organizers to attempt to provide a compelling product.

At one time, the CMP was special. Now there is very little to differentiate it from the many street fairs that multiple cities up and down the Peninsula provide - some of them on the same or adjoining weekends.

I agree with a previous poster who mentioned the 2 or 3 other art fairs downtown that tend to dilute the interest in SCA street fairs in general. These are also bad for our business and merchants I spoke to this last weekend are getting sick of hurting our business so the Chamber can profit.

Given the way this event has degenerated the last few years (and especially this year) I'd be fine with doing away with it if it can't be revitalized to draw more people downtown. As recompense for the loss of business for merchants, the Chamber should make the effort to promote Menlo Park business while they're at it. The last time I checked, that's what the Chamber is supposed to do.


Like this comment
Posted by Ghost town
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 25, 2015 at 9:28 am

Maybe the very long stretch of No Parking Allowed on Santa Cruz had something to do with attendance? Seriously. When I walked to downtown, and saw and heard nothing that suggested there was a festival ahead, I thought I had written down the wrong weekend.

The heat was not it. There have been much hotter CMP weekends in the past.

The vendors seemed fine but there were gaps that looked like holes rather than planned space. There must be a way to make gaps feel like part of the event.
If there were not activities to entice families with youngsters, add some of that back.
Work with downtown businesses, especially merchants, to find ways that this event helps them not just the chamber.
Find a way to generate visual excitement or that builds anticipation on Santa Cruz west of University. Talk with city about restoring some parking in Santa Cruz, too.


2 people like this
Posted by Have to Agree
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 25, 2015 at 9:44 am

This year was a bust.

I really do think these things have run their course. Even the Los Altos fair seemed on the lighter side this year even on Saturday, from what we've seen in the past.

You can only take so much of the same vendors year after year. And yes, there was a noticeable lack of music and food.


3 people like this
Posted by MV Resident
a resident of another community
on Jul 25, 2015 at 6:01 pm

Most of the local art & wine festivals are operated by the same events group, Miramar Events (based in Half Moon Bay), so the vendors you see at one festival will likely be the same ones you see at the other ones.

Frankly, I think it would be better if there were several event management groups running separate shows, but like rock venue organizers, there's more efficiency in having a local monopoly (like Live Nation).

Concerning the weather, the Menlo Park Connoisseurs' Marketplace is poorly timed. Here in Mountain View, we have two art/wine festivals, one around Memorial Day, the other around Labor Day. Summertime really isn't the ideal moment to run such an event, but now that other cities have taken up all the prime slots (at least for Miramar's schedule), I'm not sure if Menlo Park can move their festival successfully.

If I recall correctly, there's an different events management group running the Kings Mountain Art & Wine Festival (around Labor Day). It would behoove Menlo Park to interview this organization to see if they would be willing to
run the Menlo Park show earlier in the year.

As for residents complaining about the concert noise, I have no sympathy for them. The park has had a long history of hosting events like concerts. If you moved to a place nearby the park, you should have realized this. This is like complaining about the train noise from Caltrain that runs on the 150+ year old Southern Pacific rail corridor.


1 person likes this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 25, 2015 at 6:54 pm

really? is a registered user.

@big daddy:

Stop the shilling- your Palo Alto street fair is just a lame as ours, with the same band of bad art booths and stupid lawn ornaments. But at least you don't stoop to BBQ turkey legs……...


Like this comment
Posted by Set the Record Straight
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 27, 2015 at 1:40 pm

To set the record straight: Miramar Events was NOT INVOLVED in any way, shape or form in this year's Connoisseur's Marketplace after 26 years handling the festival PR, marketing, sponsorship and many elements of the production and curation. The festival is owned and operated by the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce. They hire independent contractors to manage different aspects of the festival. This year, the Chamber of Commerce decided to "go in a different direction" and hired a different contractor, MLA Productions. The results speak for themselves.


3 people like this
Posted by Scott
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 28, 2015 at 8:19 am

Scott is a registered user.

No one in MP would host an outdoor event at there home during these hours! Make use of the late evenings and cool weather. Change the hours to 2-10 and end with a movie on the lawn, perhaps at burgess. Any other place with a Mediterranean climate would make use of it.


1 person likes this
Posted by Concerned MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 30, 2015 at 1:22 pm

The Connoisseur's Market was a big disappointment this year. Isn't it the role of the Chamber of Commerce to promote the city as an appealing and thriving place to visit? The impression left by the fair this year was "bare bones" and unimpressive. The Chamber of Commerce misled the residents by not publicizing the fact that there would be no music in the evening. No doubt that they anticipated that there would be widespread objection. It was evident that the both the budget and the planning efforts were reduced. Out-of-town visitors reported that they would not return.
Bring back the music in the evening!! It brings the community together and is enjoyed by young and old. Why let a few homeowner's complaints regarding the noise ruin it for all of the other Menlo Park residents? It only occurs for ONE weekend in the summer and it is over by 8:30pm!


1 person likes this
Posted by George C. Fisher
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 30, 2015 at 3:40 pm

"The festival is owned and operated by the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce. They hire independent contractors to manage different aspects of the festival. This year, the Chamber of Commerce decided to "go in a different direction" and hired a different contractor, MLA Productions. The results speak for themselves."

If so, The Chamber of commerces should make a full public disclosure of revenues received, expenses, and profit from operating the connoisseurs market place. Menlo Park grants the chamber the right to close public streets. change weekend parking, impair business operations as noted, and other benefits. The amount the city receives for this grant, if any, and the chamber pays, if any, should be included in the disclosure. The chamber has paid staff which lobbies the city and without disclosure, Menlo park may be subsidizing the chamber lobby efforts on behalf of its members. In any event the event causes a dislocations, as reported above, and public disclosure of the burdens and benefits to Menlo Park, and also the Chamber of Commerce should be disclosed.


2 people like this
Posted by Sad resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 8, 2015 at 11:25 am

I live 4 property lots away from the park on Santa Cruz Ave. I only know 1 owner of the 3 single homes right next to the park and I know the other 4 property owners past those homes. Out of the 8 home owners on Santa Cruz Ave next to the park, NOT ONE person had a problem with the music. Funny how its ok to play the so called "loud music" on Wednesday nights but not ok for a once a year festival. I read this article and all Ive seen is excuses. Neighbor complaints??- Sorry , Humid weather??- Only on Sunday, so why the low attendance on Saturday?, Never had side street bands?? .I do remember small bands playing just like the block party and right next to Citi Bank. This was the most boring event I have ever attended. This is a no brainer for next year. Goodbye MLA Production, Hire a real good event coordinator and come back with a BIG BANG ! That will help us all forget the 2015 disaster.


1 person likes this
Posted by Not Worth It!
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 31, 2015 at 11:13 am

We have always planned our vacations around the week end of Connoisseurs Market. This is the last year we will do that. My wife and 3 kids, now teens, were more than disappointed. What a waste of our valuable time. I am sorry to be so blunt but don't understand how such a vibrant town is unable to organize an exciting event. The obvious is to change management at the Chamber of Commerce. I wish the best of luck for the years to come.


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