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HomeNewsProminent downtown business owner suggests changes in Rivers and Spires Festival

Prominent downtown business owner suggests changes in Rivers and Spires Festival

Hank Bonecutter
Hank Bonecutter

Clarksville, TN – The owner of a popular downtown eatery has sent an e-mail to organizers of the annual Rivers and Spires Festival praising the efforts of sponsors and volunteers, but also playing “the bad guy” and pointing out several changes he wishes they would consider.

Jeff Robinson, who along with his wife, own the popular Blackhorse Pub & Brewery praised the event and the efforts put forth by volunteers.

“I am writing you this email regarding Rivers and Spires but sharing it with a broad spectrum of other citizens who I believe have an interest in this issue.  There is much that is good about the Rivers and Spires and nobody can question the accomplishments of Doug and Theresa and others when it comes to growing the event and raising the quality level of the entertainment.  And logistically, this year was the smoothest in a while from my perspective.  I know great effort goes into this whole event from your staff as well as a myriad of volunteers, and that effort is commendable.” stated Robinson.

Turning his attention to some of the problems associated with the downtown festival, Robinson had this to say:

“But I am going to be the bad guy here for a minute and raise some issues and concerns that I have as a business and property owner in the affected area.  First, as the event has grown into a multi-day event, I think that the honest assessment is that it has a negative impact on those businesses that operate in the area on a regular basis.  That includes everybody from law offices that begin cutting their work week back to banks to the local shops and restaurants.”

“I can speak very specifically about how it affects our business at the Blackhorse. Our sales are down on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (especially if there is rain), and then we have about 10 hours of intense sales on Saturday that basically recoup the revenue lost earlier in the week.”

“We have about 87 people on our staff, and to a person, they hate it and dread working it.  So, for our business at the Blackhorse, it is basically revenue neutral and a staffing issue.  Although I live in fear of the time when the event actually runs into 3 days of rain, that will be a disaster because no regular customers will be able to get to us and the event won’t have any either.”

“Based on my conversations with the other merchants, I believe we are the lucky ones.  Some business owners have told me they have considered actually closing their store during the event because they basically do no business.  One shop owner tells me that sales are less than 50% of normal.  So if part of the logic of this event is to somehow spur business in the area, it needs rethinking.”

“As a test last year this shop owner gave out over 500 coupons for discounted purchases at her store to see how many would return, none did.  I think placing booths directly in front of the open businesses in the 100 block of Franklin exacerbates this problem but it is not the only cause.  So rather than being a business enhancing experience, Rivers and Spires is more of a penalty for being located in that particular area.”

“It is ironic that the booths that line Franklin Street blocking the views and accesses to the merchants who are there daily mainly consist of food vendors and businesses from OUTSIDE the area coming there to advertise their businesses.  One local merchant was fronted by  garage door company.  We had a really popular booth just down from the pub where a Bail Bonding company was giving out free tee shirts.  And directly across from the Pub there was a large food vendor.”

Robinson continues:

“On another note, I believe the tenor of the event has changed.  My memory might be off but I recall an event that was oriented around arts and crafts and kids areas in the day time followed by some music at night.  Now it has morphed into a music event with the other items mixed in.”

“As a brewer of beer, we obviously have no problem with the concept of selling beer.  And I have long been a proponent of having beer at outside events.  But I think the issue of responsibly serving needs to be addressed.  We are seeing an increase in the number of people who enter the Pub who we refuse service to for already being intoxicated when they walk in the door. With the event spread over such a large area, I don’t really see how it is controlled.”

“This leads me to the security side of the issue.  Since I have teenage kids I know this event is hugely popular with them.  They come in hoards.  They roam and have a lot of good clean fun.  But there are problems there as well. ”

“Last night a parent of a 14 year old boy showed me a video of her son in a fight that was taken on Saturday night at the event.  I found this very disturbing.  A group of about 15 teens circled around the two boys as one purposely provokes the other into a fight while he has a friend video the event. I know this can and does happen anyplace but the fact that it happened at Rivers and Spires is disturbing.  I know the Clarksville Police Department is out there, but the area is so large they can’t be everywhere.:

Concluding his observations, Robinson mentions one of his proudest moments during Rivers & Spires:

“One of my proudest moments of being a veteran and a citizen here came at Rivers and Spires several years ago when the 101st marched almost the entire Division right through town. I know your team works every year to improve the event.  I would ask that you pause after this year and convene some inclusive meetings of those who live, work, and operate businesses in the area to discuss how it might be a more positive experience for them as well as the people who come to hear the music.”

Clarksville Online talked to James Chavez, the Chairman of the Economic Development Council, an umbrella agency that overseas the Conventions and Visitors Bureau which runs the event and he said “We are very committed to our downtown partners and vested in their best interests.  We plan to have a complete review of our festival that we hope will be as inclusive as possible to hear the concerns of our downtown business community.  This event is a beautiful showcase of our very vibrant downtown community and we want them to enjoy the experience and support our efforts to drive more people to downtown.”

Several other downtown business owners expressed similar opinions, but would not go on the record for this story.  They indicated that they make adjustments to “be a part of the team” trying to bring more people downtown.  One shop owner told me “I dread it, but I’m willing to take one for the team if it helps Clarksville.”

Rivers and Spires is one of the most popular events of the year in Clarksville, featuring top name acts like Charlie Daniels, Little Big Town, the Dixie Chicks and more.  It’s a free festival that appeals to children of all ages.

Hank Bonecutter
Hank Bonecutterhttp://www.clarksvillesmotorcycle.com/
Hank Bonecutter is a retired broadcaster and media consultant based in Clarksville, Tennessee. His career includes stints at WKDA/WKDF and WKQB Rock 106FM, WLAC-AM in Nashville. He concluded his career as owner/talk show host at WJZM-AM in Clarksville. Currently the President of Bonehead Promotions, he's an advertising consultant and media strategist. An avid motorcyclist, Hank blogs about his travels exclusively at www.clarksvillemotorcycle.com and www.clarksvilleonline.com You can follow Hank on on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/dodgintheroadkill/, on Twitter at https://twitter.com/?lang=en, and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/dodgetheroadkill/?hl=en  
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