Concerns about dogs, blanket hogs

Healdsburg’s “Tuesdays on the Plaza” concerts were an instant hit when they were launched a dozen years ago and each year concertgoers and city of Healdsburg staff vigorously discuss what works and what doesn’t.

At last week’s Parks & Recreation Commission meeting, the annual discussion of the events began with a breakdown of costs and logistics.

Dave Jahns, the city’s Recreation Supervisor, told the commission that concert attendance ranged from 750 to well over a 1,200 people, but that, “it averages 1,000 people most weeks.”

Jahns said the revenue for this year’s concert series was $42,594; $35,500 came from sponsorships from local families and businesses and $7,094 from food vendors that pay a share of revenue each week.

Jahns noted that, in addition to financial sponsorships, the Haydon Street Inn, the Dry Creek Inn, Big John’s Market, Oakville Grocery and Mountain Mike’s Pizza donated food and lodging to the bands.

The cost to put on the series was pegged at $60,944. Jahns broke that down to $27,925 for bands and performers, $27,613 for staff and event production and $5,406 for equipment, hospitality and permits. Staff work on each concert begins the night before and continues each Tuesday well after concertgoers have gone home.

Jahns noted that he had just taken over for the previous event coordinator when the season began and that he hopes to increase sponsorships next year so that the event series can break even.

After the background discussion, commissioners and the public praised Jahns and longtime event producer Dan Zastrow for a successful series and acknowledged the Alexander Valley Film Society for showing kid-friendly films once a month during the season.

The primary areas of concern were dogs and blankets. Dogs are not legally prohibited from the park, but are discouraged from the concerts. Commissioner Kathy Birdsong noted that dogs can be intimidating to concertgoers when people are sitting and dogs are standing, running through seating areas, relieving themselves or snatching food.

The other primary area of concern was about the appropriation of large areas of the Plaza by people who have the time to come early, claim a spot and sit until the afternoon (unattended blankets and chairs are prohibited before 4 p.m.).

“We hear a lot that working families don’t have the time to stake out a spot for hours,” said commissioner Ariel Kelley.

Commissioner Juan Mota echoed Kelley’s comments. “A lot of people don’t go because there are blankets all over,” he said.

The issue was framed in another way by Leticia Romero, executive director of Corazón Healdsburg. The Aug. 22 concert featured Latino music, a dance performance and childrens’ art activities.

In an emotional appeal to the commission, Romero said that, “On Tuesdays, the Latino families stand at the corners of the Plaza but on August 22 they came into the Plaza and were part of it.”

Other suggestions to make the event more friendly to working families who can’t babysit a blanket all day included setting aside a portion of the Plaza for latecomers, providing bicycle parking to alleviate parking problems and providing organized childrens’ activities more often.

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