Friday, November 4, 2016

How Much Is Too Much of a Good Thing?

Hudson's fourteen-year-old Comprehensive Plan recommends festivals as a way to polish the city's reputation. The following is quoted from the Executive Summary (page vi).
Promote Image of City Through Festivals
Many regional residents never visit downtown Hudson, assuming the City is unsafe and unpleasant. For Hudson to continue to renew itself, it must overcome these stereotypes and encourage people to visit and explore the city. Hudson should build on this efforts to attract visitors with well-organized events like the Winter Walk, Firemen's Parade, Flag Day, the Fourth Down Block Party, and the Art Walk. Others the City might consider include a Garden Walk, Community Clean-Up Day, an Antiques Festival, and ethnic festivals that celebrate the diversity of Hudson.
Hudson has changed a lot since 2002. Some of the events mentioned--Winter Walk and Flag Day--are still going strong; the Firemen's Parade continues, although Inspection Day, of which the parade is a part, has lost some of its charm since the fire companies consolidated in 2004; for the first time since 1995, Arts Walk didn't happen this year; and the Fourth Down Block Party is no more. But there are new events: the Black Arts & Cultural Festival, the Bangladeshi Festival, the Pride Parade (now the OutHudson Parade), the Halloween Parade, and more. No longer perceived as essential to attracting people to Hudson, the many festivals are now seen as interfering with people's reasons for visiting Hudson.

The revival of the legendary Hudson Bed Races in September seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back, festival wise--or at least the most recent straw that taxed the tolerance of Warren Street merchants. At last month's Common Council Arts, Entertainment & Tourism Committee meeting, the aldermen on the committee discussed a petition signed by the proprietors of all the businesses in the 500 block of Warren Street protesting the fact that the bed races had shut down two blocks of Warren Street at midday on a Saturday. At this month's AET meeting, Karen Montone, owner of Hudson City Books and initiator of the petition, was there to present the results of a Warren Street Merchant Survey she had conducted. Among the comments were these:
Parades are a "community" building experience, we would hate to see them disappear.
Parades and events on a retail street are bad for business, especially in the summer, which is the retailer's best time for sales.
Even though the parades & events are sometimes an inconvenience, they do help make Hudson a unique place.
Saturday events increase bodies on the street, but decrease the number of people coming into the store.
Among the recommendations were: parades and events that require street closure should be staged on other streets; parades should be scheduled in the morning or in the late afternoon or early evening--before or after shopping hours; communication about upcoming events and parades should be improved.

In  2014, in response to complaints from business owners about car shows organized by American Glory that shut down the 300 block of Warren Street on a spring Saturday, two years in a row, with little or no warning to the other merchants, the Common Council amended the mass gathering permit process, requiring applications to be filed at City Hall 120 days before the event and notice of the event to appear in the Register-Star. It should be noted that the Hudson Bed Races, which inspired the current wave of complaint, followed those requirements to the letter. In addition, there was lots of publicity about the event. Still, the feeling among merchants was that they were blindsided by the Saturday street closure.

Winter Walk, the early holiday festival presented by the Hudson Opera House each year on the first Saturday in December, emerged as the one event about which the merchants had no complaints. Montone called it "the one positive community building event that closes the streets and brings customers into the stores." But before the meeting was over, even Winter Walk was a target of complaint.

Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who is a member of the AET Committee, read aloud a letter, signed by Joe Fierro of American Glory and Lyle Lentz of Wunderbar, which had been sent to all the aldermen and all the other restaurant owners in Hudson. The letter, with both dismay and outrage, shared the news that "multiple food trucks," described as "NON HUDSON BUSINESSES," were going to be permitted to sell food along Warren Street during Winter Walk. The letter called this action "an injustice to the businesses in Hudson who work day to day to build the fabric of this wonderful community and continue to 'keep it on the map'" and concluded, "If this Winter Walk transgression is allowed to occur, all of our businesses will be adversely impacted."

Alexandre Petraglia, now development and marketing coordinator for the Hudson Opera House, was present to respond to the allegations. He confirmed that there would be food trucks at Winter Walk--four of them--but they will not be positioned on Warren Street. They will be around Seventh Street Park and on side streets. He defended the action by saying that Winter Walk, which happens from 5 to 8 p.m., is expected to attract 20,000 people this year, all of whom will likely be seeking food during those hours and immediately after, and the restaurants of Hudson cannot accommodate that many people. 

The letter from Fierro and Lentz called on fellow restaurant owners to "demonstrate your solidarity" at the informal Common Council meeting on Monday, November 7, so it's likely there will be another contentious meeting in City Hall on the eve of Election Day.


  1. A correction please: The Black Arts & Cultural Festival is hardly a newcomer. It is one of the oldest festivals in Hudson. Operation Unite took it over from another organization years ago. When I first encountered it, it took place in the 100 block of Warren Street. The big oil tanks were still taking up space on the waterfront at that time, and after the tanks were removed, the Festival moved to the open space on the waterfront now called Henry Hudson Riverfront Park and used for all kinds of festivals and entertainment.

  2. As an organizer of the Hudson Music Festival, we always followed the rules of the City which are that you are not allowed to place a vendor in close proximity to a brick/mortar business that offers the same food/beverage.

    I support parades on Warren Street, but they should take place either in the morning or after 5pm.