In the early days, the committee undertook to produce events. At first, they were humble offerings--summer concerts by local musicians in the gazebo on the lawn in front of the courthouse. In 2006, the committee arranged for the City to contract with TSL to produce a series of concerts in the new waterfront park. Later, in 2011 and 2012 and maybe in 2010 as well, Rob Caldwell of Musica, in contract with the City, produced summer concert series in the park called Hudson.Water.Music. When Caldwell indicated he didn't want to continue producing the event, the Arts, Entertainment & Tourism Committee gave up the idea of producing events and adopted its current practice of giving the money budgeted for such events--usually about $20,000--to support events being produced by others. Each spring, the committee solicits grant applications and then parcels out the money, usually to the same events, year after year: the Bangladeshi Festival, the Black Arts Festival, the Flag Day Parade, the Promise Neighborhood Community Block Party, the Hudson Pride/OutHudson Parade.
Back in the early years of the 21st century, events and festivals were seen as the means to polish Hudson's image. The following paragraph appears in the Executive Summary of Hudson's 2002 Comprehensive Plan (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 its 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.In the past fifteen years, Hudson has overcome the image of being unsafe and unpleasant, but it's hard to gauge exactly how big a role events and festivals played in that transformation. Today, events and festivals may have jumped the shark when it comes to being recognized as beneficial to the city as a whole.
The controversy over events--especially those that close down all or part of Warren Street--started back in 2014, when business owners complained about car shows organized by American Glory, which 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. That situation inspired the Common Council to amend the mass gathering permit process, requiring permit applications to be filed months before the event and for notice of the event to appear in the Register-Star, but those measures seemed to be not enough. Last year, the revival of the Hudson Bed Races, which shut down the 600 and 500 blocks of Warren Street for a few hours on an early autumn Saturday, raised the ire of merchants on those blocks, who claimed they had been blindsided by the street closure, even though the organizers of the bed races had followed to the letter the requirements for filing a mass gathering permit. (To avoid the problem this year, the Hudson Bed Races, which are scheduled to take place on Saturday, September 23, are being held on South Front Street.)
Now chaired by Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), the Arts, Entertainment & Tourism Committee was been struggling with the notion that the City may be using taxpayer money to support events and festivals that, rather than promoting the city, may actually be interfering with the commercial activity on Warren Street, a recognized driver of Hudson's current vitality. At its last meeting, on Wednesday, August 2, the committee discussed a resolution, drafted by Friedman, that would end the practice of the City providing support to events produced by other entities and in effect put the City back in the business of producing its own events--in this case, its own event singular: Hudson Community Day. The proposed resolution "urges the Mayor and Treasurer of the City of Hudson, as well as the City Council President, being the 3 members of the City's Board of Estimate [and Apportionment] . . . to allocate the sum of $20,000 in the 2018 City Budget for a 2018 Hudson Community Day event to take place on a date and at the times to be determined by this Committee once such sum is so appropriated, and that such appropriation shall be in lieu of appropriating public funds for distribution by any branch of the City government to specific entities for public or private events within or without the City's corporate limits."
The resolution goes on to suggest that "such event take place at the City's Henry Hudson Waterfront Park and adjacent properties" and then describes what might happen at such an event: "all not-for-profit entities physically headquartered in the City's corporate limits and serving the citizens of the City of Hudson, civic organizations and agencies (such as the Elks, the VFW, the City Council, the City Youth Department, the Hudson City School District, etc.), as well [as] Hudson's first responder community, shall be invited to participate in Community Day in a manner . . . appropriate to the goals of Community Day and that the same be entertaining and attractive to the City's residents and visitors, as reasonably determined by this Committee, such as by setting up booths where representatives of such entities may engage in conversation with visitors to the Community Day so that each may learn from the other." The resolution also indicates that the $20,000 will be spent "to secure appropriate entertainment for Community Day attendees and to properly advertise the event and for other appropriate public purposes directly associated with Community Day as reasonably determined by this Committee."
Although the other aldermen on the AET committee--Rick Rector (First Ward), Michael O'Hara (First Ward), and Alexis Keith (Fourth Ward)--seemed comfortable with the resolution and willing to move it forward to the full Council, Friedman said he wanted the committee to wait for at least a month before acting on it.
The next meeting of the AET Committee takes place on Wednesday, September 6, at 6:45 p.m.
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